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Genetic Test Can Detect Heart Transplant Rejection

It may also reduce the need for invasive heart-muscle biopsies, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A simple blood test can detect whether heart transplant patients are rejecting their donated heart, and it may also reduce the need for invasive heart-muscle biopsies, a new study has found.

The study was led by New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. It analyzed data from patients in the four-year Cardiac Allograft Rejection Gene Expression Observational Study (CARGO), conducted at eight U.S. transplant centers.

The study looked at a gene expression test called AlloMapT molecular expression testing, which provides information about 20 genes representing molecular pathways in white blood cells found to be associated with heart transplant rejection, as well as information about control genes.

The researchers found that the AlloMap test appeared able to distinguish heart transplant patients who were rejecting their new heart from patients who weren't. The study found that patients with a low AlloMap score had less than 1 percent chance of rejection.

The findings appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.

"The genomics revolution ushered in by the completion of the Human Genome Project has made possible what was only dreamed about before -- namely the ability to detect rejection of the transplanted heart without taking a tissue sample," study co-author Dr. Mario Deng, director of cardiac transplantation research at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

New York-Presbyterian/Columbia will begin offering AlloMap testing to patients on Jan. 1, 2006.

Heart transplant patients have an average risk of 3 percent to 5 percent for moderate/severe rejection, and must be monitored for rejection for the rest of their lives. For decades, the heart-muscle biopsy was the most reliable method for detecting rejection.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart transplants.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, news release, Dec. 15, 2005
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