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Eno Hysi, PhD

Supervisor: Dr. Darren Yuen
Award: KRESCENT Post-Doctoral Fellowship
Institution: St-Michael’s Hospital
Year: 2020-2023

Study title: Quantification of pre-transplantation kidney scarring using photoacoustics

Dr. Eno Hysi received his PhD from the Department of Physics at Ryerson University in 2020 and is currently a Banting Fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital, Division of Nephrology in Toronto. A Vanier Scholar throughout his PhD, he studied photoacoustic (PA) imaging in the context of cancer treatment monitoring. PA imaging is a relatively new hybrid imaging modality which combines optical and ultrasonic principles to study the chromophore composition of biological tissue. During his PhD, he developed PA biomarkers of tumor vascularity for identifying cancer treatment response as early as a few hours post-treatment. His research has produced over 15 publications, 34 papers in conference proceedings, 2 book chapters/reviews and over 80 presentations. Throughout his studies, he was the recipient of numerous academic awards and scholarships including the Ryerson Gold Medal and the Ontario/Alexander Graham Bell/Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. During the KRESCENT fellowship, he will explore the role of PA imaging for determining the fibrotic burden of kidney transplants. By measuring the degree of collagen pre-transplant non-invasively, physicians can optimally match each kidney to its most suitable recipient, ensuring the best possible outcome for patients in need of transplants.  

Lay Summary
Transplantation has revolutionized the lives of patients with kidney failure. It remains the only therapy which prolongs lifespan and quality of life for patients with end stage kidney disease. Unfortunately, since donor kidneys are in extremely short supply, patients can wait up to 8 years for a transplant, and in many cases never receive a kidney. To address this dire shortage, kidney doctors are forced to accept kidneys from sicker donors. While many of these kidneys are suitable for transplant, others are already injured when transplanted. This presents a big problem as some patients who wait years for a transplant end up receiving kidneys which work less well and fail prematurely, forcing patients back into kidney failure. The most common type of injury in donor kidneys is scarring. It causes the kidney to lose its ability to filter blood and produce urine. Unfortunately, doctors have no way of assessing how much scarring is in donor kidneys. There is a desperate need for accurate tools to assess how much scarring is in potential transplant kidneys, so doctors can better predict how well these kidneys will function in the long term. 

Dr. Hysi has developed a cutting-edge technique called photoacoustic (PA) imaging to accurately measure the degree of scarring in transplant kidneys. By shining light of specific wavelengths into the kidney, he can detect collagen, the main component of scar tissue, using a standard ultrasound machine. Using this technique, he can quickly and accurately measure the amount of scarring without cutting open the kidney. Currently, doctors decide whether to accept a kidney, and who the kidney should go to, without knowing how much scarring is present. This means that young patients who need the longest lasting kidneys sometimes receive scarred kidneys that will last only a short time, while older patients can wait a long time to receive a kidney whose lifetime is actually longer than the recipients themselves. Dr. Hysi is developing PA imaging as a way for doctors to quickly, accurately, and easily measure how much scarring is present in a donor kidney. His goal is to make sure that doctors match every kidney optimally to its recipient, so that every patient has the shortest possible wait time, and the best possible outcome.