Objective: To develop an orthotopic, allogeneic, uterine transplantation technique and an effective immunosuppressive protocol in the sheep model.
Methods: In this pilot study, 10 sexually mature ewes were subjected to laparotomy and total abdominal hysterectomy with oophorectomy to procure uterus allografts. The cold ischemic time was 60 min. End-to-end vascular anastomosis was performed using continuous, non-interlocking sutures. Complete tissue reperfusion was achieved in all animals within 30 s after the vascular re-anastomosis, without any evidence of arterial or venous thrombosis. The immunosuppressive protocol consisted of tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil and methylprednisolone tablets. Graft viability was assessed by transrectal ultrasonography and second-look laparotomy at 2 and 4 weeks, respectively.
Results: Viable uterine tissue and vascular patency were observed on transrectal ultrasonography and second-look laparotomy. Histological analysis of the graft tissue (performed in one ewe) revealed normal tissue architecture with a very subtle inflammatory reaction but no edema or stasis.
Conclusion: We have developed a modified procedure that allowed us to successfully perform orthotopic, allogeneic, uterine transplantation in sheep, whose uterine and vascular anatomy (apart from the bicornuate uterus) is similar to the human anatomy, making the ovine model excellent for human uterine transplant research.