Brussels, 16 Apr 2004
A UK-German project, supported by Eureka, has led to the development of a new test that can significantly decrease the chances of organ rejection following a transplant operation.
Transplant surgery saves thousands of lives every year, but the shortage of donors combined with differences in tissue types make finding an accurate organ match very difficult. When mistakes are made, the transplanted organ can be rejected by the recipient's immune system.
The MIDAS project has developed a diagnostic test based on recombinant DNA technologies. The lead partner, a small UK company called ProImmune, began research into a new test with UK government funding. The next step - designing and evaluating the proposed diagnostic test - required access to data and serum samples from transplant patients, hence the involvement of the clinical transplant immunology department at Germany's University of Kiel.
'Usually organs are matched to recipients by comparing tissue types and selecting those parings with the smallest genetic mismatch,' said CEO of ProImmune, Nikolai Schwabe. 'Using this method alone, however, ignores sensitisation, which can turn a slight mismatch into an unacceptably high risk.'
Sensitisation can occur when the recipient has had contact with foreign tissue types in the past. For example, patients who have had a previous transplantation or a blood transfusion are vulnerable. Women who have been pregnant are also at risk as they are exposed to the father's tissue type via the blood of the baby during pregnancy.
'Our test is able to detect the degree of sensitisation with unprecedented accuracy, and should eventually become a universal standard in testing for organs compatibility in transplant surgery,' said Dr Schwabe.
Negotiations are now underway on the commercialisation of the project results through partnership with a leading company in the field of transplantation diagnostics. With 100,000 people on waiting lists every year, the potential global market for the MIDAS test is enormous.
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