Background: We have tested whether fetal porcine thymic tissue transplantation can lead to tolerance across a discordant (pig-to-baboon) xenogeneic barrier.
Methods: Six baboons underwent a conditioning regimen with thymectomy, splenectomy, and anti-monkey CD3 antibody conjugated to a diphtheria toxin binding site mutant (FN18-CRM9). Porcine fetal or neonatal thymic tissue was transplanted into three baboons. Three control baboons received either no transplanted pig tissue (n=1) or adult pig lymph node (n=2). Cellular responses and skin xenografts were used to test for tolerance.
Results: After T-cell depletion and thymic transplantation, recovery of thymus-dependent naïve-type CD4 cells (CD4/CD45RA ) and in vitro xenogeneic hyporesponsiveness were observed. No sensitization of alpha-galactosyl antibody responses was observed. The thymic grafts survived up to 48 days. Porcine skin xenografts were performed in two of these animals with survival of 22 and 24 days. Only two of these animals were completely T-cell depleted, and both failed to recover thymus-dependent T cells (CD4/CD45RA ). In one animal, general in vitro hyporesponsiveness was observed, with subsequent death from infection. The second animal demonstrated delayed recovery of T cells and prolonged general hyporesponsiveness in vitro. Neither animal demonstrated prolongation of porcine skin grafts compared with allografts (both rejected by day 13).
Conclusions: Porcine thymic tissue is able to induce xenogeneic hyporesponsiveness. More efficient thymic engraftment may allow this approach to induce xenograft tolerance.