The purpose of this study was to investigate whether lymphatic reconstitution and regeneration occurs after clinical facial transplantation using indocyanine green lymphography and immunohistochemical markers.
Allograft skin biopsies at multiple posttransplant time points were stained with Lyve1 lymphatic antibody and other endothelial antibodies. Staining intensity was interpreted on a scale of none, mild, moderate, and strong by 2 investigators and consolidated by a third party for final interpretation. Standardized real-time lymphography was performed at various posttransplant time points to evaluate lymphatic reconstitution and regeneration.
Forty-two biopsies were evaluated at 15 different time points from posttransplant days 7 to 420. Strong Lyve1 staining was observed in 52.4%, moderate staining in 14.3%, and weak staining in 33.3% of biopsies. Strong staining was present on days 7, 10, 44, 79, 269, 402, and 420. Three lymphographic studies were conducted at 8.5, 30, and 35 months posttransplant. Initial drainage via distinct lymphatic channels with abrupt dermal splash and lymphostasis was observed at 8.5-month posttransplant. At 30- and 35-month posttransplant, communication of multiple lymphatic channels between donor tissue and recipient tissue was evident with distinct drainage into native recipient cervical lymph nodes. This correlated with ongoing clinical resolution of facial edema and was unaffected by 3 episodes of acute rejection.
These findings support ongoing lymphatic reconstitution between the donor facial allograft and recipient native tissue. Donor lymphatic regeneration begins after facial transplantation and continues long term. This mechanism may be responsible for the temporal and spatial process of lymphatic reconstitution with recipient lymphatic channels.