Background. The major impediment to success in solid organ transplantation is chronic rejection (CR). The characteristic lesion of CR is transplant vascular sclerosis (TVS). Although the mechanism of TVS is thought to have an immunologic basis, in humans immunosuppression does not prevent or reverse it. One possible therapy to prevent TVS is induction of donor- specific tolerance. Bone marrow chimerism has been successful in inducing tolerance in acute and chronic rejection heart and kidney transplant models. The highly immunogenic small bowel (SB) allograft provides a rigorous test of the efficacy of this tolerance regimen. We examined whether induction of tolerance by bone marrow chimerism could prevent TVS in a model of Fisher 344 (F344) to Lewis (LEW) rat SB transplantation. Methods. Bone marrow chimeras (BMC) were created by transplantation of T-cell-depleted F344 bone marrow into irradiated LEW rats. Chimerism was assessed by flow cytometric method. F344 SB, heterotopically transplanted into the chimeras, was clinically and histologically assessed for CR. F344 SB grafts, transplanted into cyclosporine-A-treated LEW recipients, served as control grafts for CR. Results. Cyclosporine-A-treated LEW rats chronically rejected F344 SB grafts. By contrast, the BMC group demonstrated tolerance and had long-term SB graft survival (>120 days) without TVS. The BMC demonstrated immunocompetence by prompt rejection of third party ACI (RT1(av1)) SB allografts. Conclusions. Bone marrow chimerism prevents chronic graft failure secondary to TVS in a model of chronic SB rejection. TVS fails to develop when tolerance is established, suggesting that the mechanisms involved in TVS are, in part, immunologically mediated.
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