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CLDF NewsResearch News Updates and Blogs

New study into liver transplant rejection

CLDF is delighted to announce the funding of a major study into liver transplant rejection which has the potential to further improve the outcomes for children who receive a transplant.

Whilst paediatric liver transplant has excellent long-term outcomes, it has been recognised that donor liver damage can occur in 60% of patients, even when liver function tests are normal. The exact cause of the damage to the transplanted liver is not known.

Rejection (where the body’s immune system attacks the new liver) can be of two types. One type is cellular, caused by T lymphocytes and methods of diagnosis for this are well established. The other is antibody mediated (provoked) rejection caused by donor specific antibodies (DSA). In other solid organ transplants (such as kidney and heart), antibody mediated rejection is known to cause long-term damage to the donor liver which ultimately needs re-transplantation. Recently, donor specific antibodies have been identified in the liver transplant population. It is not clear if donor specific antibodies are formed as a result of donor liver damage or if they are the main cause of antibody-mediated rejection leading to liver damage. DSA testing is not currently part of the routine follow up monitoring of liver transplant patients.

This study is being carried out with collaboration between all three specialist paediatric liver units. The blood tests necessary for detecting antibodies will be drawn at the time of routine follow-up and other blood tests involved in the clinical care of the patient.

Why is this research important?

This study will aim to fill the gaps in knowledge by:

  • investigating the exact time of DSA development
  • investigating its specific contribution to rejection i.e. are the donor specific antibodies a cause of rejection or a consequence of it?
  • identifying the trend of DSA levels after transplant to understand more about the behaviour of these antibodies. Blood tests at present cannot be requested routinely at several points in the post­transplant follow-up, partly due to cost.
  • estimating prevalence (how widespread) and incidence (risk of it occurring) of DSA mediated rejection

What about the future?

The estimated end date of the study is 2023. This study has the potential to improve outcomes following liver transplantation by being able to diagnose the type of rejection more accurately and therefore treat appropriately. This will hopefully lead to an increase in the lifetime of the transplanted liver.

You can read about other studies funded by CLDF here.

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