A collaborative immune profiling study has begun with Epimune Diagnostics GmbH. The new research will use biosamples taken from corneal transplant recipients who agreed to take part in the VISICORT longitudinal multi-centre clinical study. In July 2020, Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMC) selected from the VISICORT Foundation Biobank (VFB) vapour nitrogen freezers were shipped under super cold-chain at -196 C in a liquid nitrogen Dry Shipper from Biostór Ireland to INSERM in Nantes.

The 166 biosamples were from people who participated in trans-European VISICORT studies over the past 5 years in Aarhus, Berlin, Bristol, Dublin and Nantes. Participants had received full corneal transplants and samples were collected immediately before transplantation and at various times post-transplant to investigate blood immune cell signatures predictive of rejection. Samples from groups of people that did or did not develop rejection during follow-up were selected. The consignment also included samples of PBMC from “healthy controls.” These key samples from the VFB are the basis of a multi-partner, collaborative study involving: INSERM (Nantes, France), Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI, Dublin, Ireland) and VISICORT’s 3rd party research partner, Epimune GmbH (https://www.epimune-dx.com/). Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, Epimune GmbH is a diagnostics company that has revolutionized the molecular quantification of immune cells from a drop of blood.

A portion of each biosample will first undergo Flow Cytometry analysis at INSERM to count the numbers of different sub-types of a key immune cell type called CD4 or “helper” T cell. At the same time, genetic material (DNA and RNA) will be extracted from another portion of the cells by the INSERM research team and will be shipped to research laboratories in RCSI for measurement of micro-RNAs and to Epimune for the measurement of the epigenetic DNA signatures of individual types of T cells and other immune cells. The results from these coordinated research assays will further the detection of and understanding of activities within the immune system which may eventually lead to rejection in some corneal transplant recipients. These new results may also provide opportunities to develop tests to more accurately predict the risk of corneal transplant rejection.