A Model of Sequential Heart and Composite Tissue Allotransplant in Rats

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Some of the 600,000 patients with solid organ allotransplants need reconstruction with a composite tissue allotransplant, such as the hand, abdominal wall, or face. The aim of this study was to develop a rat model for assessing the effects of a secondary composite tissue allotransplant on a primary heart allotransplant.


Hearts of Wistar Kyoto rats were harvested and transplanted heterotopically to the neck of recipient Fisher 344 rats. The anastomoses were performed between the donor brachiocephalic artery and the recipient left common carotid artery, and between the donor pulmonary artery and the recipient external jugular vein. Recipients received cyclosporine A for 10 days only. Heart rate was assessed noninvasively. The sequential composite tissue allotransplant consisted of a 3 × 3-cm abdominal musculocutaneous flap harvested from Lewis rats and transplanted to the abdomen of the heart allotransplant recipients. The abdominal flap vessels were connected to the femoral vessels. No further immunosuppression was administered following the composite tissue allotransplant. Ten days after composite tissue allotransplantation, rejection of the heart and abdominal flap was assessed histologically.


The rat survival rate of the two-stage transplant surgery was 80 percent. The transplanted heart rate decreased from 150 ± 22 beats per minute immediately after transplant to 83 ± 12 beats per minute on day 20 (10 days after stopping immunosuppression).


This sequential allotransplant model is technically demanding. It will facilitate investigation of the effects of a secondary composite tissue allotransplant following primary solid organ transplantation and could be useful in developing future immunotherapeutic strategies.

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