Background: Cellular therapies for immunomodulation in vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA) have gained importance due to their potential for minimization of immunosuppression. Adipose-derived (AD) mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) especially have shown encouraging potential. We investigated the influence of timing and frequency of AD-MSC treatment on immunologic and graft survival as well as graft vasculopathy outcomes after VCA.
Methods: Lewis rats received full-mismatched Brown Norway rat hindlimb transplants. Recipient animals were assigned to groups receiving donor-derived AD-MSCs (10 cells/animal) either on postoperative day (POD) 1, POD 4, or repeatedly on POD 4, 8, and 15, and compared to untreated controls.
Results: Although AD-MSC administration on POD 1 or POD 4, 8, and 15 resulted in 50% long-term graft acceptance, recipients treated on POD 4, and controls rejected before POD 50. All treated animals revealed peripheral blood chimerism (4 weeks), most pronounced after repetitive cell administration (12.92% vs 5.03% [POD 1] vs 6.31% [POD 4]; P < 0.05; all P < 0.01 vs control 1.45%). Chimerism was associated with the generation of regulatory T cells (CD4CD25FoxP3). In vitro mixed lymphocyte reactions revealed modulation of the recipient immune response after AD-MSC treatment. Graft arteries at end point revealed significant differences of arterial intimal thickness between rejecting and AD-MSC-treated animals (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Taken together, our results point to the potential for repetitive AD-MSC administration in improving outcomes after VCA. Future studies are warranted into optimization of the dosing and frequency of AD-MSC therapy, either alone or used in, combination with other cell therapies (such as hematopoietic stem cells or bone marrow-derived MSC or dendritic cells) for optimization of appropriate conditioning or maintenance regimens.