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Blood test may spot kidney transplant rejection

By Erin Allday, Victoria Colliver, Stephanie M. Lee

November 6, 2012 -- A simple blood test can show whether kidney transplant patients are rejecting their donated organ before symptoms of rejection have even started, according to a large national study led by researchers out of San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center.

The scientists studied 236 kidney transplant patients, first analyzing blood samples from them and then performing biopsies to check for rejection. The researchers found a set of five genetic markers that were present only in the blood of patients who suffered rejection.

Currently, organ rejection must be determined by doing a biopsy - an expensive, invasive procedure that often is performed long after rejection has started and damage has been done to the kidney.

The blood test, on the other hand, can be done at regular intervals to monitor for rejection and allow doctors to treat patients before they become severely ill.

The study results, published in the October issue of American Journal of Transplantation, will need to be verified before blood tests can replace biopsies. Scientists believe the same genetic markers may be found in patients who have had other types of organ transplants, including heart and lung.

Source: University of California, Berkeley