Background: We investigated a novel allotransplantation model using an aortocava patch in ewes.
Methods and results: We carried out 10 uterine orthotopic allotransplantations in ewes with end-to-side anastomosis of the aortocava donor patch on the left external iliac vessel recipient. The immunosuppressive protocol was a combination of cyclosporine (10 mg/kg/day) and mycophenolic acid (3 g/day). An estimation of the immunosuppressive therapy exposure was performed by measuring the area under the curve (AUC) of immunosuppressive plasma concentrations. The graft was assessed by vaginoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and second look laparotomy at 6, 8 and 10 weeks, respectively. The median (range) times for cold and warm ischemia were 95 min (75-130) and 91 min (55-165), respectively. All the vascular anastomoses were patent at the end of the surgery. The median AUC of cyclosporine and mycophenolic acid were 1.24 mg h/l (0.34-3.85) and 18.40 mg h/l (3.76-42.35), respectively. Of the 10 ewes receiving a transplant, 6 could be assessed. Cervical biopsies showed signs of necrosis in all six ewes. The MRI results correlated with the macroscopic observations of the 'second look' laparotomy. The aortocava vascular pedicles were thrombosed, adding to the peripheral neovascularization. Graft histology showed endometrial tissue in two out of six ewes.
Conclusions: Mobility of the transplant within the pelvis, the length of the vascular pedicle and rejection can explain the high rate of transplant necrosis. The particular digestive anatomy and physiology of ruminants makes it difficult to administer an optimal immunosuppressive treatment. MRI appears to be a good non-invasive examination for graft estimation.