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U of A researchers can predict heart transplant patient's health earlier
Date:11/10/2010

Michael Mengel, a pathology researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has found a new way to analyze biopsies from heart transplant patients by looking at their genes. This allows him to make an early prediction whether the transplant is working.

This is extremely important in heart transplant patients because a successful outcome depends completely on doing a biopsy of the heart tissue and prescribing treatments if necessary. In other organs transplants, doctors can use other measurements.

It's hoped the new technology and process developed in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry will become a standard of care worldwide, and improve patient care within the next three to five years, says Mengel.

Using what is called gene chip technology, Mengel can look at all 54,000 human genes of a heart transplant biopsy. Then, by using software algorithms developed by the team at the faculty's Alberta Transplant Applied Genomics Centre, he can reduce them to a dozen single numbers, all of which are necessary to interpret what is happening and make a diagnosis.

"This system of molecular annotation to predict prognosis is better than anything else available currently," said Mengel. "We get more information out of the tissue than we were able to before we could read all the genes."

The current standard of care is for pathologists to use a microscope and assess single cells in the diseased tissue. The problem is, pathologists can see tissue lesions but can't see finer details like the difference between tissue injury and rejection.

With Mengel's new approach they can go beyond the microscope and assess changes in the molecules in a tissue. This helps pathologists tell the difference between certain disease processes. Based on such improved diagnosis, physicians can start appropriate treatment earlier, further improving the patient's long-term outcome after getting a heart transplant.

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Contact: Quinn Phillips
quinn.phillips@ualberta.ca
780-248-2048
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Source:Eurekalert

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