Swine composite tissue allotransplant model for preclinical hand transplant studies

E. Tuncay Üstüner, Ramsey K. Majzoub, Xiaoping Ren, Jean Edelstein, Claudio Maldonado, Gustavo Perez-Abadia, Warren C. Breidenbach, John H. Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Our laboratory previously developed and used an orthotopic radial forelimb osteomyocutaneous flap in the pig as a preclinical composite tissue allograft (CTA) model. To ensure that it mimicked the clinical situation as closely as possible we developed this model taking many immunologic and reconstructive considerations into account. While our original pig CTA model was ideal for studying the methods of preventing skin, muscle, bone, vessel and nerve rejection, and systemic toxicity, it did not include specialized tissues/structures of a joint and digit. Therefore, we were unable to evaluate rejection of these specialized tissues and their functional properties. Recognizing the importance of assessing joint rejection and function in hand transplantation research we developed a new swine forelimb CTA model that included the animal's medial digit. The present study describes the anatomy and the transplantation technique used in this new preclinical CTA model. We transplanted a radial osteomyocutaneous flap that included the medial digit between two size- (17-21 kg) and age- (6-8-week) matched farm pigs. We removed the digit from the recipient pig's forelimb in continuity with a section of the radial bone and replaced it with the same structure transplanted from a donor pig. After transplantation, a full-length cast was placed on the recipient pig's operated limb and changes in flap color, temperature and the presence of edema were monitored continuously for 6 h, and then regularly at predetermined intervals over 4 days. No weight bearing restrictions were placed on the animal's operated limb. After 4 days, the animal was euthanized. Direct visual monitoring of the allograft during 4 days revealed it was viable with no signs of graft failure due to technical complications associated with the transplant procedure. Upon waking from anesthesia, the animal stood and wandered freely about its cage with no apparent difficulty. Based on the animal's high level of activity at this time, we concluded that the procedure caused it minimal morbidity. At 4 days after the operation, early signs of rejection (skin erythema and edema) were observed. By incorporating a digit into our original CTA pig forelimb model we have made it a better model for performing preclinical hand transplant studies. The added advantage of being able to assess methods of preventing rejection in the specialized joint/digital tissues (articular cartilage, digital flexor and extensor systems, the nail complex) and assess long-term function of these structures is important. The fact that the procedure does not cause major morbidity to the animal makes it possible to conduct long-term graft survival and functional studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-406
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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