Written by Loren Grush
When a patient in need of a kidney transplant finally receives their new organ, their health problems may not necessarily be over. For some kidney recipients, their bodies may ultimately reject the foreign kidney – leading to the organ’s removal and another long wait for a new donor.
However, new research out of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in the U.K. may help prevent this kind of painful rejection in the future. Scientists have discovered a single gene variant in kidney transplant donors that may predict whether or not the transplanted kidney will survive in the recipient.
The gene- the multidrug resistance 1 (MDR-1) gene – was originally identified by the researcher of having a potential impact on kidney rejection and survival, because the protein the gene encodes helps to pump drugs out of cells.
In order for a transplanted kidney to successfully adapt and adhere to a new body’s system, the kidney recipient must take a number of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection – often including a class of drugs called calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs). Unfortunately, these kinds of medications can also come with serious side effects.
“We wanted to look at a link between the genotype of the donor and the risk of transplant failure to CNI toxicity,” Dr. Richard Borrows, in the department of nephrology and kidney transplantation at University Hospital Birmingham and the study’s lead author, told FoxNews.com. “Although they have revolutionized kidney transplantation, they are inherently toxic to the transplanted kidney. There’s a train of thought that that toxicity in turn leads to transplant failure.”
Borrows and his team examined three different cohorts of pairs of kidney recipients and their donors. In the first group of 811 individuals, they looked for 52 gene variants in both the donors and the recipients. Only one gene appeared to be associated with kidney failure – a particular variant of MDR-1.
Overall, the variant was linked with a 69 percent increased risk for long-term transplant failure. Two additional groups of a combined 3,660 donors confirmed the results.