Immune Biomarker May Predict Kidney Transplant Rejection Prior to Surgery

The expression level of the protein Interleukin-21 in circulating immune cells may serve as a biomarker for kidney transplant rejection.

Army Hospital Operating Room, Pepperell Manufacturing Company.


Since the demand for transplanted organs is much higher than the supply, predicting the likelihood of allograft survival following transplantation is important for effectively allocating the limited number of available organs, and scientists are continuously searching for improved methods of anticipating rejection.

A recent publication demonstrated that expression levels of the protein interleukin-21 (IL-21) in circulating immune cells may serve as a biomarker for kidney transplant rejection following transplantation. van Besouw et al found that patients experiencing early and late rejection events beared higher frequencies of circulating donor-specific IL-21+ cells prior to transplantation, while recipients with lower frequencies of these cells in the peripheral blood were less likely to reject the organ, possibly due to the absence of graft-specific antibody. Circulating IL-21+ cells could eventually be targeted therapeutically to lower the incidence of rejection events.

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van Besouw NM, Yan L, de Kuiper R, et al. (2019) The Number of Donor-Specific IL-21 Producing Cells before and after Transplantation Predicts Kidney Graft Rejection. Frontiers in Immunology. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00748/abstract

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