A Test That Can Improve the Quantity of Usable Donor Kidneys Developed by Chinese Researchers

A kidney transplant is the last resort of therapy for patients facing kidney failure. The donor may be deceased or alive. Patients who undergo kidney transplants early enough are likely to live longer than 10–15 years in contrast to their counterparts on dialysis. New research reveals that about 3500 donor kidneys and 10 kidneys daily end up rejected in the US alone. To put it differently, 17.9% and 9.1% of donors’ kidneys were rejected almost yearly in US and France respectively. Meanwhile, about 100000 are waiting for kidney donation per year, 12 persons die daily in wait of this kidney.

illustration of SERS detection of biomarkers SLPI and IL-18 using BP/Au nanohybrids.

SERS detection of biomarkers. Image Courtesy of Optics Express

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Needless to say, these kidneys were meant to save and preserve lives. We can all agree that we need a system that helps detect from the get-go what kidneys are viable for transplant and what kidneys aren’t. At least it can save us a deal of stress.

SERS technology for accessing kidney health

Scientists from the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, China developed a novel technology that can analyze a host of biomarkers and interpret their levels as presence or absence of kidney injury. Consequently, this method could improve the number of usable donor kidneys.

The spectrum-enhanced Raman scattering(SERS) is a new tech that analyses biomarkers that tell the health of kidneys from the blood and urine. The highly sensitive approach could one day offer a more accurate way to evaluate the quality of kidneys before transplantation.

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Lead researcher Mingxing Sui of Changhai Hospital of Shanghai reported that the dearth of adequate methods and technologies which could accurately access the level of injury to the kidney blighted the success of the kidney transplant. As such, they intended to find a lasting solution by developing a system that can objectively measure the levels of select biomarkers that serve as indicators for kidney wellbeing.

The research detailed how they designed this system and their results after experimenting in In the journal Optics Express. Essentially, this multiplexing tech is ultrasensitive and detects the levels of 2 major markers of kidney injury—IL-18 and secretory leukocyte peptidase inhibitor SLPI.

The practice still domiciled in lots of centers is taking a biopsy from the kidney especially if the donor is dead. A biopsy is intended to know the state of the kidney, however, it is not an ideal way to access the health of the kidney chiefly because of its inaccuracy, it is invasive and time-consuming. These limitations culminate in the disqualification of a good number of kidneys.

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Furthermore, several technologies have been used to identify these markers however they were lacking in sensitivity, had inadequate multiplexing, complication, or were costly. As such the research team set out to find out if SERS will accurately analyze these markers and be more efficient. And it was! The SERS is built on spectroscopy technology that allows single-molecule sensitivity for several biomarkers, also it is quick and simple. At the core, it has nanoparticles that create a unique pattern for every molecule by boosting the Raman scattering when metal surfaces adsorb molecules.

In a bid to boost the ease of use, sensitivity, and reproducibility of SERS in the clinics, they hybridized the technology by combining gold nanoparticles and a new 2-D nanoparticle [Black phosphorus].

Clinical Significance

This non-invasive technology with high sensitivity and reproducibility will no doubt be the gold standard for testing the presence and level of kidney injury. The speed of the test will as well ensure that the number of rejected donor kidneys drops drastically.

Read Also: Transplantation: Damaged Lungs Restored With Live Pig’s Blood


This research is quite early but holds lots of promises for the nephrology aspects of medicine. The principles of boosting the sensitivity of tests to identify biomarkers could also be applied to other areas. The scientists that developed this remarkable technology are not relenting, as they have commenced work to find more biomarkers to sharpen the accuracy and develop algorithms to eliminate human and other errors.


Simultaneous and ultra-sensitive SERS detection of SLPI and IL-18 for the assessment of donor kidney quality using black phosphorus/gold nanohybrids



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