We showed recently that low molecular weight dextran sulfate (DXS) acts as an endothelial cell (EC) protectant and prevents human complement- and NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity towards porcine cells in vitro. We therefore hypothesized that DXS, combined with cyclosporine A (CyA), could prevent acute vascular rejection (AVR) in the hamster-to-rat cardiac xenotransplantation model. Untreated, CyA-only, and DXS-only treated rats rejected their grafts within 4-5 days. Of the hearts grafted into rats receiving DXS in combination with CyA, 28% survived more than 30 days. Deposition of anti-hamster antibodies and complement was detected in long-term surviving grafts. Combined with the expression of hemoxygenase 1 (HO-1) on graft EC, these results indicate that accommodation had occurred. Complement activity was normal in rat sera after DXS injection, and while systemic inhibition of the coagulation cascade was observed 1 h after DXS injection, it was absent after 24 h. Moreover, using a fluorescein-labeled DXS (DXS-Fluo) injected 1 day after surgery, we observed a specific binding of DXS-Fluo to the xenograft endothelium. In conclusion, we show here that DXS + CyA induces long-term xenograft survival and we provide evidence that DXS might act as a local EC protectant also in vivo.