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Local FK506 implants in non-human primates to prevent early acute rejection in vascularized composite allografts

Background: Previous vascularized composite allograft (VCA) studies from our laboratory have shown that topical FK506 delivery in non-human primates (NHPs) was limited by inadequate dermal penetration and rejection persisted. Herein, we report the first utilization of FK506 via subcutaneously implanted discs to mitigate VCA rejection in NHPs.

Methods: Full major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-mismatched NHP pairs underwent partial-face VCA and FK506 disc implantation along the suture line. All allotransplants were maintained post-operatively for two months on the FK506 discs, methylprednisolone, mycophenolate mofetil, and supplemented with intramuscular FK506 if necessary. Group 1 (n=4) was used for optimization of the implant, while Group 2 (n=3) underwent delayed bone marrow transplantation (DBMT) after two months. VCA skin biopsies and peripheral blood samples were obtained for serial assessment of rejection and mixed chimerism by histopathology and flow cytometry respectively.

Results: In Group 1, two technical failures occurred. Of the remaining two NHPs, one developed supratherapeutic levels of FK506 (50-120 ng/mL) and had to be euthanized on postoperative day (POD) 12. Reformulation of the implant resulted in stable FK506 levels (20-30 ng/mL) up to POD12 when further intramuscular (IM) FK506 injections were necessitated. In Group 2, two NHPs survived to undergo conditioning and one successfully developed chimerism at 2-3 weeks post-DBMT (96-97% granulocytes and 7-11% lymphocytes of recipient-origin). However, all three NHPs had to be terminated from study at POD64, 77 and 86 due to underlying post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. All VCAs remained rejection-free up to study endpoint otherwise.

Conclusions: This study shows preliminary results of local FK506 implants in potentially mitigating VCA acute rejection for tolerance protocols based on mixed chimerism approach.

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