Background: Recently published reports indicate that treatment with mesenchymal stem cells combined with bone marrow transplantation could prolong survival after composite tissue allotransplantation. This study investigated whether bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells combined with irradiation and short-term immunosuppressant therapy, but without bone marrow transplantation, could prolong composite tissue allotransplantation survival. Correlation with regulatory T-cell populations was also evaluated in a swine hind-limb model.
Methods: Heterotopic hind-limb transplantation was performed in outbred miniature swine. Group I (n = 4) was the untreated control. Group II (n = 3) received mesenchymal stem cells alone (on days –1, 3, 7, 14, and 21). Group III (n = 5) received cyclosporine A (on days 0 through 28). Group IV (n = 3) received irradiation (on day –1), mesenchymal stem cells (on days 1, 7, 14, and 21), and cyclosporine A (on days 0 to 28). Swine viability and signs of allograft rejection were monitored postoperatively. Histopathologic changes in allografts were examined. The expression and localization of CD4+/CD25+ and CD4+/FoxP3+ T cells were assessed using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry.
Results: Treatment with mesenchymal stem cells along with irradiation and cyclosporine A resulted in significant increases in allograft survival as compared with other groups (>120 days; p = 0.018). Histologic examination revealed the lowest degree of rejection in grafted skin and interstitial muscle layers in the mesenchymal stem cell/irradiation/cyclosporine A group. Flow cytometric analysis revealed a significant increase in the percentage of CD4+/CD25+ and CD4+/FoxP3+ T cells in both the blood and graft in the mesenchymal stem cell/irradiation/cyclosporine A group.
Conclusion: These results suggest that prolonged survival after composite tissue allotransplantation induced by treatment with mesenchymal stem cells combined with irradiation/cyclosporine A is correlated with regulatory T cells.