Donor-derived Cell-free DNA in Solid-organ Transplant Diagnostics: Indications, Limitations, and Future Directions

Ashish Kataria, Dhiren Kumar, Gaurav Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The last few years have seen an explosion in clinical research focusing on the use of donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) in solid-organ transplants (SOT). Although most of the literature published so far focuses on kidney transplants, there are several recent as well as ongoing research studies on heart, lung, pancreas, and liver transplants. Though initially studied as a noninvasive means of identifying subclinical or acute rejection in SOT, it is rapidly becoming clear that instead of being a specific marker for allograft rejection, dd-cfDNA is more appropriately described as a marker of severe injury, although the most common cause of this injury is allograft rejection. Multiple studies in kidney transplants have shown that although sensitivity for the diagnosis of antibody-mediated rejection is excellent, it is less so for T-cell-mediated rejection. It is possible that combining dd-cfDNA with other novel urine- or blood-based biomarkers may increase the sensitivity for the diagnosis of rejection. Irrespective of the cause, though, elevated dd-cfDNA seems to portend adverse allograft prognosis and formation of de novo donor-specific antibody. Although current data do not lend themselves to a clear conclusion, ongoing studies may reveal the utility of serial surveillance for the management of SOT as following levels of dd-cfDNA over time may provide windows of opportunity to intervene early and before irreversible allograft injury. Finally, cost-effectiveness studies will be needed to guide the ideal incorporation of dd-cfDNA into routine clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1211
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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