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Liquid biopsy for minimally invasive heart transplant monitoring: a pilot study
  1. Michał Bieńkowski1,
  2. Rafał Pęksa1,
  3. Marta Popęda2,
  4. Magdalena Kołaczkowska3,
  5. Anna Frankiewicz4,
  6. Anna J Żaczek2,
  7. Marcin Gruchała4,
  8. Wojciech Biernat1,
  9. Piotr Siondalski3
  1. 1 Department of Pathomorphology, Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  2. 2 Laboratory of Cell Biology, Department of Medical Biotechnology, Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Gdańsk and Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  3. 3 Department of Cardiac & Vascular Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  4. 4 1st Department of Cardiology, Faculty of Medicine, Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michał Bieńkowski, Department of Pathomorphology, Medical University of Gdańsk, 80-210 Gdańsk, Poland; michal.bienkowski{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Background Heart transplantation allows for a long-term management of patients with end-stage heart failure. After the surgery, organ rejection is monitored with endomyocardial biopsy, which is an invasive, but not always informative procedure. Therefore, there is a pressing need for a new, safe, yet reliable, diagnostic method. Here, we present a pilot study confronting liquid biopsy based on donor-specific cell-free DNA with the protocol endomyocardial biopsy.

Methods The study was performed on 21 blood samples matched with endomyocardial biopsy (graded according to acute cellular rejection scale) from nine patients after heart transplantation. Genotyping was performed on genomic DNA from donors and recipients for 10 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Cell-free DNA isolated from plasma was analysed with digital droplet PCR to detect donor-specific alleles.

Results From 21 analysed endomyocardial biopsies, 4 were graded as 0R and 17 as 1R. Liquid biopsy was successfully performed in each sample for all informative SNPs (median of 3 per patient). We observed a high homogeneity of the results between SNPs in each sample (interclass correlation coefficient of >0.9).

Conclusions There is a undeniable need for an alternative, non-invasive diagnostic procedure of early transplant rejection and investigation of donor-derived cell-free DNA seems to be the promising choice. The very high sensitivity is particularly enticing to consider liquid biopsy as a potential screening tool. Its minimal invasiveness may allow for more frequent examination and, thus, tighter monitoring. The reliable assessment of its clinical utility requires an adequately powered and properly designed multicentre study.

  • transplantation
  • heart
  • immunology
  • molecular pathology
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Footnotes

  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Contributors MB participated in research design, participated in the performance of the research, analysed the data, wrote the paper and revised the paper. RP, MP, MK and PS participated in research design, participated in the performance of the research and participated in the critical review of the paper. AF, MG and WB participated in the performance of the research and participated in the critical review of the paper. AJŻ contributed analytic tools and participated in the critical review of the paper.

  • Funding This study was supported by Young Scientists’ Research Task (Ministry of Science and Higher Education) No: 01-0393/08/267 (for MB).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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