Protein May Influence Rejection in Organ Transplant Patients

Caregivers may have a new marker for graft-versus-host disease to monitor in transplant patients.

In a study published in Blood, transplant recipients were found to have elevated levels of the protein CXCL10 in the blood around the time they developed graft-versus-host disease (cGvHD). Researchers believe this has the potential to serve as a marker in disease prevention.

About 30 to 50% of patients who receive a blood and bone marrow transplant develop cGvHD. Furthermore, this form of treatment is the only effective option for children with leukemia.

The disease occurs when immune cells in the donated blood and marrow cells identify the child’s cells as foreign and launch and immune attack, resulting in the development of cGvHD.

“Diagnostic tests are desperately needed to make blood and marrow transplants safer,” said principal study investigator Kirk Schultz. “At this time, there are no good tests to diagnose cGvHD and the disease can only be identified too late when it is already established. If we can diagnose it earlier and better, then treatments can be used to stop it before it becomes a chronic, disabling disease.”

During the study, researchers analyzed blood samples from 2 groups of adult patients, of whom 170 developed cGvHD and 180 did not. The samples identified proteins in the blood that could potentially be an early sign of the disease.

Researchers discovered elevated levels of the inflammatory protein CXCL10, which seemed to impact the patient’s immune cells, stopping the body from fighting off the disease. CGvHD can cause damage to the digestive tract, liver, lungs, and skin.

Furthermore, patients who develop this disease are at a higher risk for health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, endocrine abnormalities, and obesity.

The study authors believe that testing a transplant patient for CXCL10 could help provide an earlier diagnosis.