Data in Action: Transplant Translation

Jun 01 / 2017

Data scientists are having a positive impact in the medical field – in ways never dreamed possible. Using a new automated RNA analysis platform that conducts biomarker blood tests, data scientists can monitor and treat heart transplant patients with a simple blood test instead of invasive biopsies. 

Using compiled data from the test, data scientists can identify a small number of proteins in the blood, which allows doctors to improve early diagnosis (post-transplant) of signs of acute organ rejection.

The data scientists involved in this project were required to first make sure that the multiple kinds of genomics and clinical data were as clean as possible. Then they built models to identify a small number of proteins in blood (out of millions) that can be used to diagnose acute rejection. The identified set of proteins needed to be sensitive and specific to acute rejection. Last but not least, the data scientists needed to assess the effectiveness of the proteins as they were migrated from a research platform to a clinical platform, and as the proteins were tested from a discovery cohort of patients to a much larger replication cohort. All the data and the findings need to be certified by Health Canada before the test can be used widely in Canada.

The benefit of this new platform is that it allows doctors to better monitor and treat patients post-transplant. Early diagnosis of problems can enable early intervention and better outcomes. Additionally, from a patient care perspective, this platform is minimally invasive to the patient (who has recently had major surgery) compared to more invasive biopsies.