A device that can spot early signs of rejection in transplanted organs has been successfully trialed.
The tiny wireless implant senses the warning signs of rejection three weeks before current methods, making it easier to save the organ.
It works by continuously monitoring the organ and sending an alert to a phone or tablet if the temperature of it changes.
Current methods of detecting rejection are intermittent, imperfect and sometimes invasive and it can still happen decades after transplant.
At just 0.3 centimeters wide, 0.7 centimeters long and 220 microns thick, it is smaller than a pinky fingernail and about the width of a single hair.
It contains a highly sensitive thermometer, which can detect incredibly slight (0.004 degrees Celsius) temperature variations on just the kidney as well as monitoring blood flow.
The sensors are connected to a tiny package of electronics including a miniature coin cell battery for power which sit next to the kidney and use Bluetooth to stream data continuously.
The team used rats to test the ultrathin soft implant device, which sits directly on a transplanted kidney.
It detects temperature irregularities associated with inflammation and other body responses that arise with transplant rejection.
The extra three weeks it gives could help with early intervention, increasing the odds of preserving donated organs which are scarce and in high demand.
Rejection is often silent and patients might not experience symptoms, making this early warning device crucial.
Around 2,800 people receive a transplanted kidney in the UK every year with about another 5,000 waiting for a suitable organ.
At the moment, the easiest way to monitor kidney health is through measuring certain markers in the blood.
By tracking the patient’s creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels, physicians can gain insight into kidney function but levels can change for a number of reasons, making the risk of false positives or negatives high.
The only alternative for detecting rejection is a biopsy, which is invasive and carries risks of multiple complications such as bleeding, infection, pain and even damage to nearby tissues.
First author Dr. Surabhi Madhvapathy added: “Each individual responds to anti-rejection therapy differently.
Because temperature increases accompany inflammation, the researchers targeted it for their device and when they tested it they noticed that the local temperature of a transplanted kidney increases as much as 0.6 degrees Celsius preceding rejection.
Dr. Madhvapathy added: “Organ temperature fluctuates over a daily cycle under normal circumstances.
The studies were conducted with kidney transplants but the researchers assume it could also work for other organs including the liver and lungs.
Dr. Joaquin Brieva, a Northwestern Medicine dermatologist not involved in the study has transplanted kidneys and has lost nine family members to kidney failure.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker