In a move that could help in early prediction of whether heart transplants are working in patients, a researcher says that he has found a new way to analyze biopsies from heart transplant patients through their genes.

Heart transplants are allowed only after pathologists recommend based on the biopsy of the heart tissue.

It's hoped the new technology and process developed in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry will become a standard of care worldwide, and improve patient care within the next three to five years, says Michael Mengel, a pathology researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Mengal has used gene chip technology that allows researchers to look at all 54,000 human genes of a heart transplant biopsy and select the important genes required to make the diagnosis. The Alberta Transplant Applied Genomics Centre in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry has developed an algorithm to analyze the data.

"This system of molecular annotation to predict prognosis is better than anything else available currently," said Mengel. "We get more information out of the tissue than we were able to before we could read all the genes."

Now pathologists use a microscope to assess single cells in the diseased tissue, but can’t see the finer details like the difference between tissue injury and rejection.

"Molecules also give mechanistic insight and can help to discover new drug targets," adds Mengel.