This study examined the fate of vascularized muscle allografts using a genetically defined rat model. Its purposes were (1) to analyze the histologic/immunologic responses, (2) to study the effect of cyclosporine on graft survival, and (3) to examine the possibility of inducing tolerance. In rats differing at a major histocompatibility locus, vascularized gastrocnemius muscle transplants were performed based on the sural branches of the femoral artery and vein. Forty-two animals studied were divided into three groups: Group 1, allografts, was treated without cyclosporine; Group 2, allografts, was administered continuous cyclosporine; and Group 3, allografts, was administered cyclosporine for 6 weeks only. Evaluation consisted of gross examination, H&E histology, and immunologie studies (MLC, CML, and complement-dependent 51Cr lysis assay). Lytic units (LU) were derived from the assays and served as the indicator of immune response. Group 1 animals had uniform rejection with intense cell-mediated response (LU 23 to 47) and low humoral response. Group 2 animals had viable allografts throughout with suppressed lytic unit values of 0 to 9 initially, which rose to 14 to 29 at 6 weeks despite continuous cyclosporine treatment. Group 3 animals showed rejection similar to the untreated animals. Autografts were performed as controls and survived indefinitely. Analysis of variance was significant at p < 0.05. Using a reliable rat model for vascularized muscle allografts, we found that in transplantation across a major histocompatibility barrier, the initial immune response was primarily cell-mediated. Cyclosporine suppressed rejection only when given continuously, and short-term cyclosporine treatment did not induce a tolerant state. These data should be useful for future studies of vascularized muscle allografts.
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