Influence of Immunosuppressive Regimen on Diffusivity and Oxygenation of Kidney Transplants-Analysis of Functional MRI Data from the Randomized ZEUS Trial

J Clin Med. 2022 Jun 8;11(12):3284. doi: 10.3390/jcm11123284.


The ZEUS study was a multi-center randomized controlled trial investigating the effect of early conversion from a ciclosporin-based to an everolimus-based regimen on graft function twelve months post-transplantation. In this investigator-initiated sub-study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of kidney grafts was prospectively performed to non-invasively assess differences in graft oxygenation, diffusion and perfusion between groups and time-points using diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD)-MRI. Sixteen patients underwent DWI and BOLD-MRI at months 4.5 and 12 post-transplantation on a 3 Tesla and 1.5 Tesla (n = 3) MR scanner. After exclusion due to image quality, outlier values or missing data, DWI was analyzed for ten subjects; BOLD for eight subjects. The diffusion coefficient ADCD decreased in the CsA-treated group over time, whereas it increased in the EVE group (p = 0.046, medulla). The change in ADCD from months 4.5 to 12 significantly differed between groups in the cortex (p = 0.033) and medulla (p = 0.019). In BOLD, cortico-medullary transverse relaxation rate R2* increased (decreased tissue oxygen) in the CsA-treated and decreased in EVE-treated groups over time. Similarly, R2* values at month 12 were higher in the CsA-treated group compared to the EVE-treated group. There was no significant difference for the perfusion fraction FP. In conclusion, this prospective sub-study of the ZEUS trial suggests an impact of immunosuppressive regimen on fMRI parameters of the kidney graft.

Keywords: ZEUS study; blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD); calcineurin inhibitors; cyclosporin; diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI); everolimus; functional MRI; intravoxel incoherent motion imaging (IVIM); kidney transplantation; mTOR inhibitors.