Vascularized composite tissue allotransplantation (VCA) opens new possibilities for reconstruction of complex tissue defects, including upper extremity and facial transplantation. The main challenges in VCA transplantation are the side effects of long-term immunosuppression and chronic graft rejection. Translational preclinical animal models are crucial for VCA research to improve clinical outcomes and to study underlying immunologic mechanisms. Herein, we describe a novel, large animal, non-bone-bearing VCA model in inbred, swine leukocyte antigen-typed miniature swine.
Transplantation of vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous (VRAM) flaps was performed between fully swine leukocyte antigen-mismatched miniature swine. The flaps were transferred to the posterolateral aspect of the neck of recipients and anastomosed to the common carotid artery and internal jugular vein. Different immunosuppressive drug regimens were used. Clinical graft evaluation was performed daily, and punch biopsies were taken for histology.
Ten VRAM transplants were performed. The mean ischemia time was 89.4 min (SD ± 47), mean pedicle length 7.5 cm (SD ± 2), mean venous diameter 2.5 mm (SD ± 0.4), and mean arterial diameter 2.2 mm (SD ± 0.3). Follow-up demonstrated good correlation between clinical appearance and progression of graft rejection confirmed by histologic assessment. Complications were intraoperative cardiac arrest in one recipient and one flap loss due to venous compromise.
VRAM transplantation in miniature swine is an appropriate preclinical VCA model, with the advantage of good clinical and histologic correlation during the course of rejection, as well as easy access to the graft. The availability of inbred, haplotyped animals allows studies across different major histocompatibility complex barriers in a non-bone-bearing VCA.

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