Background: In heart transplant recipients, donor-derived cell-free DNA (ddcfDNA) is a potential biomarker for acute rejection (AR), in that increased values may indicate rejection. For the assessment of ddcfDNA as new biomarker for rejection, blood plasma sampling around the endomyocardial biopsy (EMB) seems a practical approach. To evaluate the effect of the EMB procedure on ddcfDNA values, ddcfDNA values before the EMB were pairwise compared to ddcfDNA values after the EMB. We aimed at evaluating whether it matters whether the ddcfDNA sampling is done before or after the EMB-procedure. Methods: Plasma samples from heart transplant recipients were obtained pre-EMB and post-EMB. A droplet digital PCR method was used for measuring ddcfDNA, making use of single-nucleotide polymorphisms that allowed both relative quantification, as well as absolute quantification of ddcfDNA. Results: Pairwise comparison of ddcfDNA values pre-EMB with post-EMB samples (n = 113) showed significantly increased ddcfDNA concentrations and ddcfDNA% in post-EMB samples: an average 1.28-fold increase in ddcfDNA concentrations and a 1.31-fold increase in ddcfDNA% was observed (p = 0.007 and p = 0.03, respectively). Conclusion: The EMB procedure causes iatrogenic injury to the allograft that results in an increase in ddcfDNA% and ddcfDNA concentrations. For the assessment of ddcfDNA as marker for AR, collection of plasma samples before the EMB procedure is therefore essential.
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