Molecular atlas can help predict organ transplant success

Thursday, 27 June, 2024

Molecular atlas can help predict organ transplant success

Researchers from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and the Sydney Precision Data Science Centre at The University of Sydney have identified molecular biomarkers for transplant rejection that are common to all the major transplanted organs: hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys.

This significant advancement, led by PhD student and aspiring bioinformatician Harry Robertson, uses machine learning to predict transplant outcomes with impressive accuracy. It has been described in the journal Nature Medicine.

“Our research indicates that there are underlying molecular pathways involved in organ rejection that are consistent across different solid organs,” Robertson said. “This discovery is pivotal as it allows us to develop strategies to enhance the success rates of all transplants.”

The research team created the Pan-organ ResOurce for Molecular Allograft Dysfunction (PROMAD), a molecular atlas consisting of more than 12,000 patient samples from around the globe. This atlas will enable researchers to interact with data on transplants that was previously inaccessible to many researchers, and encourage global collaboration.

“This atlas has led to the development of a proof of principle for a universal blood test that can predict the likelihood of transplant rejection before it occurs, potentially setting a new standard in precision medicine and improving outcomes for transplant recipients worldwide,” Robertson said.

Professor Natasha Rogers, Deputy Director of WIMR’s Centre for Transplant and Renal Research and a senior author on the study, highlighted the practical applications of the findings. “We are now testing a blood test in the lab that could soon allow doctors to predict and prevent organ rejection,” she said. “More than that, our findings lay the groundwork for applying these strategies to other forms of transplantation and even other diseases.”

Associate Professor Ellis Patrick, a senior author and bioinformatician at both WIMR and the Sydney Precision Data Science Centre, emphasised the future potential of this research. “I have seen early-career researchers becoming increasingly confident in analysing big datasets,” he said. “By helping these researchers get access to data, I am confident that we’ll be seeing a wave of new research that will enrich our understanding of organ transplantation.”

The promising results from this study offer a beacon of hope for millions of people waiting for life-saving transplants, with Rogers noting, “This study is a perfect example of how precision medicine can significantly impact clinical practices by integrating global data to benefit individual patients.”

The next phase of the research will focus on extending the findings to other types of transplants and continuing to refine the predictive models used in the study.

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