This study was undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of performing vascularized musculoskeletal xenografts between mice and rats using immunosuppression. Vascularized musculoskeletal grafts were harvested from the hind limb of C57BL/6J (B6) mice, transplanted heterotopically into Lewis rats, and revascularized by microanastomoses of the graft artery and the recipient femoral artery and the graft vein to the recipient femoral vein. Recipient rats were divided into four groups. Group 1 received no immunosuppression (n = 10), group 2 was treated with cyclosporine (10 mg/kg/day; n = 10), group 3 was treated with 15-deoxyspergualin (5 mg/kg/day; n = 10), and group 4 received both cyclosporine and 15-deoxyspergualin (n = 10). Graft survival was directly examined on postoperative days 4, 7, and 14. In vitro assays were performed using mixed lymphocyte reactions and anti- donor cytotoxic antibody assays to assess the recipient's immune response. Grafts were examined by histology and immunohistochemistry. All grafts in group 1 were rejected by day 4. In groups 2 and 3, all grafts were rejected by day 7. In group 4, however, 8 of 10 recipients had viable grafts on day 14. Data from mixed lymphocyte reactions showed that cell-mediated immune responses were uniformly suppressed in groups 2, 3, and 4 compared with group 1. However, anti-donor antibody production was only partly suppressed in groups 2 and 3, suggesting that graft rejection was primarily caused by circulating cytotoxic anti-donor antibodies in groups 1, 2, and 3. Histologic observations in groups 1, 2, and 3 confirmed the important role of the humoral mechanism in xenograft rejection. Furthermore, immunohistochemical results demonstrated that the small vessels in the rejected grafts showed anti-rat immunoglobulin and complement depositions. Only a combination therapy of cyclosporine and 15-deoxyspergualin attenuated the rejection of xenografts.
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