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Researchers discover MRI can measure kidney scarring and predict future kidney function

Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital have made what are believed to be two world first discoveries: an MRI can measure kidney damage and can predict future kidney function within one year while avoiding needle biopsies.

The researchers used a specific magnetic resonance imaging test called an elastogram to measure kidney scarring in 17 people who had kidney transplants, according to the study published online in theĀ Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

An elastogram maps the stiffness of tissue using MRI to determine the presence of scarring, according to Dr. Anish Kirpalani, the study’s lead author, a radiologist and a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s.

Scarring is a major cause of kidney transplant failure.

“Healthy kidney is soft, whereas scar tissue is stiffer,” said Dr. Darren Yuen, a transplant nephrologist and scientist in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s.

“We needed a way to measure how soft or stiff your kidney is without actually going inside the body. Using the MRI elastogram, we were able to measure kidney stiffness, which gave us an indication of how much scarring there was.”