Predicting problems

A Vancouver doctor is working on a blood test to detect acute and chronic rejection of organ transplants, or predict its occurrence

Ask a heart or kidney transplant patient about the worst part of recovery and they’ll often say it’s the biopsies to ensure they aren’t rejecting the new organ. “It’s about fear, discomfort, inconvenience, minor risks,” says Dr. Bruce McManus, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of British Columbia. So he is working to make this necessary evil much less awful.

With his team at the Prevention of Organ Failure Centre of Excellence (Proof Centre) in Vancouver, McManus is developing a blood test to detect acute and chronic rejection, or predict its occurrence. Since starting their research in 2003, the scientists have identified a collection of blood molecules, known as biomarkers, that indicate when an individual is a “rejector” and when they are not, says McManus, director of the Proof Centre. He hopes the blood tests will be widely used in hospitals by the late summer of 2013.

Besides being painless, the tests will be processed faster—the same day, instead of overnight. And the results will be based on quantitative information rather than the subjective reading of a pathologist using international guidelines.

Going forward, McManus has two goals in mind: first, “reduce the number of biopsies” that patients endure. And then, “to eliminate the biopsy” altogether.

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