An operation taking place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham

Biosensor could predict liver transplant complications

Image credit: Rui Vieira/PA Media

Scientists are developing a graphene-based biosensor that could help medics predict the chances of liver transplants developing complications post-operation in less than 10 minutes.

The prototype electrochemical biosensor is being developed by University of Edinburgh-based scientists SensiBile and Scottish technology company Integrated Graphene.

The new diagnostic tool, which is currently in the early stages of development, uses a small sample of bile from the donor’s liver to assess the organ’s risk of biliary complications before it is transplanted.

Electrodes in the sensor, developed by Integrated Graphene and dubbed Gii-Sens, will pick up any risk of complications from the bile and quickly translate the signal into a “high risk/low risk” message on the device.

At present, doctors transplant over 30,000 donor livers annually worldwide. But up to 30 per cent of the transplanted livers will develop biliary complications, a major factor determining long-term patient survival following a liver transplant.

The team of scientists and experts behind the test hopes it will help surgeons to make immediate, informed decisions regarding a donor liver’s viability pre-transplantation.

Claus Marquordt, chief executive and co-founder at Integrated Graphene, said that the test – which he hopes will be used by the NHS in the future – could transform liver transplants, moving healthcare “more towards preventative medicine”.

He said: “When we created Gii-Sens, it was exactly for these types of applications – a low-cost, portable, fast response and accurate multiplexed platform for point-of-care diagnostics.

“This is just one of a multitude of research projects that stands to benefit from the improved performance benefits of enhanced Gii performance that is enabling the next generation of diagnostics.

“The beauty of the technology is that it can be reproduced quickly, at very low cost, with no drop-off in performance. When healthcare resource is under enormous pressure, this is a key part of how health outcomes can be improved at scale, so it’s hugely exciting to be involved in projects like this.”

Marco Caffio working with Integrated Graphene's Gii technology

Integrated Graphene’s co-founder, director and CSO, Marco Caffio, is seen working with the company’s Gii technology

Image credit: Integrated Graphene

Dr Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez, chief executive and co-founder of SensiBile, said: “Our experimental work helped us to understand that the damage that leads to biliary complications is already present before transplantation.

“By assessing which donors’ livers have a high probability of biliary complications development, we aim to provide the surgeons with the necessary information to make informed decisions.”

Dr Ferreira-Gonzalez added the test “is extremely different from everything that has been done before… it’s extremely exciting”.

She hopes it will be ready by the end of next year and said they might develop the technology for use on other donor organs in the future.

“Our test will help transplant surgeons around the world to improve the selection process for organs, increase the pool of available donor livers and reduce the rate of biliary complications,” added Hannah Esser, transplant surgeon and co-founder of SensiBile.

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