Purpose of review
The success of any given kidney transplant is closely tied to the ability to monitor patients and responsively change their medications. Transplant monitoring is still, however, dependent on relatively old technologies: serum creatinine levels, urine output, blood pressure, blood glucose and histopathology of biopsy samples. These older technologies do not offer sufficient specificity, sensitivity, or accuracy to allow appropriate and timely interventions. Using the tools of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics new biomarkers are being found that may greatly improve transplant monitoring and significantly enhance graft survival. This review describes the basic principles of metabolomics and summarizes a number of recent developments in the use of metabolite biomarkers and metabolomics to monitor kidney transplants.
Changes in the concentration profiles of a number of small molecule metabolites found in either blood or urine can be used to localize organ damage, identify organs at risk of rejection, assess organs suffering from ischemia–repurfusion injury or identify organs that have been damaged by immunosuppressive drugs.
The application of metabolomics to kidney transplant monitoring is still very much in its infancy. Nevertheless, there are a number of easily measured metabolites in both urine and serum that can provide reliable indications of organ function, organ injury, and immunosuppressive drug toxicity. As the field matures, metabolomics may eventually lead to the development of rapid, inexpensive and noninvasive approaches to assist clinicians in monitoring kidney transplants.