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Transplantation. 2008 Sep 15;86(5):627-35. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e318184ca6a.

Science of composite tissue allotransplantation.

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Institute for Cellular Therapeutics, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202-1760, USA.


The science of composite tissue allotransplantation (CTA) is rooted in progressive thinking by surgeons, fueled by innovative solutions, and aided by understanding the immunology of tolerance and rejection. These three factors have allowed CTA to progress from science fiction to science fact. Research using preclinical animal models has allowed an understanding of the antigenicity of complex tissue transplants and mechanisms to promote graft acceptance. As a result, translation to the clinic has shown that CTA is a viable treatment option well on the way of becoming a standard of care for those who have lost extremities and suffered large tissue defects. The field of CTA has been progressing exponentially over the past decade. Transplantation of hands, larynx, vascularized knee, trachea, face, and abdominal wall has been performed. Several important observations have emerged from translation to the clinic. Although it was predicted that rejection would pose a major limitation, this has not proven true. In fact, steroid-sparing protocols for immunosuppression that have been successfully used in renal transplantation are sufficient to prevent rejection of limbs. Although skin is highly antigenic when transplanted alone in animal models, when part of a CTA, it has not proven to be. Chronic rejection has not been conclusively demonstrated in hand transplant recipients and is difficult to induce in rodent models of CTA. This review focuses on the science of CTA, provides a snapshot of where we are in the clinic, and discusses prospects for the future to make the procedures even more widely available.

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