Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a thin and flexible sensor that can monitor transplanted organs for signs of rejection, addressing the ongoing risk that transplant recipients face.

Patients who undergo organ transplants often require immunosuppressive medication to prevent rejection, but rejection can still occur, even years after the initial transplant. Current methods for monitoring rejection, such as biopsies and blood markers, are invasive and may not detect rejection until it has progressed significantly.

The new sensor is designed to sit on the surface of the transplanted organ and is highly sensitive to changes in temperature. It has the potential to provide early warning of rejection, as it can detect a small increase in organ temperature, which precedes the appearance of blood biomarkers by up to three weeks. This technology could offer reassurance and peace of mind to transplant recipients who constantly worry about the health of their transplanted organs.

Specifically designed for kidney transplants, the sensor can be implanted during the transplant procedure. It is incredibly thin, measuring just 200 microns in thickness, and is placed under the renal capsule to maintain close contact with the organ surface. The sensor monitors temperature changes and communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth to alert healthcare providers.

In experiments with rodents that had kidney transplants, the sensor detected early signs of kidney rejection up to three weeks before traditional markers like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels increased. This innovation holds promise as a highly sensitive early warning system for organ rejection, potentially improving the long-term outcomes of transplant recipients.

Article written by  CONN HASTINGS