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Carnegie Mellon develops non-invasive technique to detect transplant rejection at cellular level

Carnegie Mellon University scientist Chien Ho and his colleagues have developed a promising tool that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track immune cells as they infiltrate a transplanted heart in the early stages of organ rejection. This pre-clinical advance, described in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), ultimately could provide a non-invasive way to detect transplant rejection in patients.

"We have reported for the first time the ability to monitor single immune cells in a live animal using MRI. This could revolutionize the management of transplant patients," said Ho, professor of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science.

"Successful translation of this work to the clinic ultimately will reduce the number of biopsy procedures and should greatly improve the quality of life for cardiac transplant patients, especially children," added Ho, who directs the Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research. "Perhaps most importantly, this advance will allow doctors to provide highly personalized care that could prevent transplant rejection."

Organ transplantation is the preferred clinical approach to treat end-stage organ failure, but transplant patients face a lifetime of immunosuppressive therapy and the risk of losing the new organ due to rejection. Physicians typically monitor patients for organ rejection following a heart transplant by performing frequent heart biopsies for the first year. Heart biopsies are invasive procedures that involve threading a catheter through the jugular vein to the heart's right ventricle and snipping out several tiny pieces of tissue. A pathologist then tests the tissue to identify the presence of immune cells (such as macrophages) as well as other pathological changes in the transplanted heart tissue that indicate the graft is being rejected by the body's immune system.

These procedures are costly, uncomfortable and must be repeated annually
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Source:Carnegie Mellon University


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