Though you won’t know it just by looking at 4 year-old energetic and happy Kaden, his short life has been anything but normal.
Just hours after birth, Kaden Morris was diagnosed with kidney disease. Something his parents, Karen and Keith Morris, describe as their "worst nightmare come true." Soon after, Kaden began regular 12-hour dialysis treatments and remained in hospital for three months. Life with kidney disease was a daily struggle and it took its toll on the toddler, he was sick often and his growth and development suffered.
Last year, Kaden received the ultimate life-saving gift, a donated kidney from his father Keith. And since then Kaden has been lucky, he’s thrived after surgery and as his small body hasn’t rejected the transplant. Between 10 to 20 percent of pediatric kidney transplant recipients aren’t so fortunate and will experience at least one rejection episode within the first year. Currently, detecting kidney rejection requires a biopsy – an invasive procedure done at regular intervals following surgery. This procedure requires heavy sedation and is a painful and stressful experience for a child.
Kaden’s physician, Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen, a researcher at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health and his colleagues are looking to change this. They are developing a method that will allow doctors to detect kidney rejection earlier using a less invasive urine test. The technique is called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and uses a magnetic field to measure the amounts of different metabolites that everyone has in their urine. Metabolites are small molecules produced and used by our cells and include simple sugars, amino acids and waste products. The premise of the research is that organ rejection causes changes in the amount of these metabolites.
Blydt-Hansen, Head of Pediatric Nephrology at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, explains that this new test could be done on a weekly basis to detect rejection and prevent kidney damage. “The advantage is that if there is rejection happening, we can pick up the changes much sooner in the process. Then we can treat the rejection much earlier before substantial damage to the organ has occurred.”
Kaden is among 40 patients from the pediatric kidney transplant program who are being monitored by Blydt-Hansen. The NMR research project is still in the research stage and the new method won’t come into effect for a few years, but preliminary results are promising as the test is showing 90% accuracy.