Objectives: Transplantation is limited by a lack of human organ donors. Organs derived from animals, most likely the pig, represent a potential solution to this problem. For the heart, 90-day median graft survival of life-supporting pig hearts transplanted to nonhuman primates has been considered a reasonable standard for entry into the clinical arena. Overcoming the immune barrier to successful cardiac xenotransplantation is most appropriately first explored with the non-life-supporting heterotopic model. Methods: We performed a series of 7 heterotopic heart transplantations from CD46 transgenic pigs to baboons using a combination of therapeutic agents largely targeted at controlling the synthesis of anti-pig antibodies. Rituximab (anti-CD20) and Thymoglobulin (rabbit antithymocyte globulin [ATG]; SangStat Medical Corp, Fremont, Calif) were used as induction therapy. Baseline immunosuppression consisted of splenectomy, tacrolimus, sirolimus, steroids, and TPC (an anti-Gal antibody therapeutic). Rejection events were not treated. Results: By using Kaplan-Meier analysis, median graft survival was 96 days (range, 15-137 days; 95% confidence interval, 38-99 days). Only 2 grafts were lost as a result of rejection, as defined by cessation of graft palpation. There was no evidence of a consumptive coagulopathy, infectious complications were treatable, and no posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disorders occurred. No cellular infiltration was observed. Conclusions: This study reports the longest median survival to date (96 days) of pig hearts transplanted heterotopically into baboons. Duplication of these results in the orthotopic life-supporting position could bring cardiac xenotransplantation to the threshold of clinical application.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
O. Eickelberg is supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International (#10-2000-71). Part of this study was supported by a grant from Fresenius Medical Care, Austria. We are grateful for the generous help and advice of M. Kashgarian during the performance of these studies.