More than thirty-five facial allograft transplantations (FAT) have been reported worldwide since the pioneering case performed in France in the year 2005. FAT has received tremendous interest by the medical field and the general public while gaining strong support from multiple disciplines as a solution for reconstructing complex facial defects not amenable/responsive to conventional methods. FAT has expanded the frontiers of reconstructive microsurgery, immunology and transplantation, and established its place in the cross section of multiple disciplines. The procedure introduces complex scientific, ethical, and societal issues. Patients and physicians are called to deal with a variety of-sometimes everlasting-challenges, such as immunosuppression management and psychosocial hurdles. This review reflects on the surgical and scientific advancements in FAT and milestones reached in the last 12 years. It aims to encourage active discussion regarding the current practices and techniques used in FAT and suggest future directions that may allow transitioning into the next phase of FAT, which we describe as safe, reliable, and accessible standard operation for selected patients.
BackgroundExposure of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) to excessive cyclic stretch such as in hypertension causes a shift in their phenotype. The focal adhesion protein zyxin can transduce such biomechanical stimuli to the nucleus of both endothelial cells and VSMCs, albeit with different thresholds and kinetics. However, there is no distinct vascular phenotype in young zyxin-deficient mice, possibly due to functional redundancy among other gene products belonging to the zyxin family. Analyzing zyxin function in VSMCs at the cellular level might thus offer a better mechanistic insight. We aimed to characterize zyxin-dependent changes in gene expression in VSMCs exposed to biomechanical stretch and define the functional role of zyxin in controlling the resultant VSMC phenotype.Methods and ResultsDNA microarray analysis was used to identify genes and pathways that were zyxin regulated in static and stretched human umbilical artery–derived and mouse aortic VSMCs. Zyxin-null VSMCs showed a remarkable shift to a growth-promoting, less apoptotic, promigratory and poorly contractile phenotype with ≈90% of the stretch-responsive genes being zyxin dependent. Interestingly, zyxin-null cells already seemed primed for such a synthetic phenotype, with mechanical stretch further accentuating it. This could be accounted for by higher RhoA activity and myocardin-related transcription factor-A mainly localized to the nucleus of zyxin-null VSMCs, and a condensed and localized accumulation of F-actin upon stretch.ConclusionsAt the cellular level, zyxin is a key regulator of stretch-induced gene expression. Loss of zyxin drives VSMCs toward a synthetic phenotype, a process further consolidated by exaggerated stretch.
Background. Facial vascularized composite allotransplantation (fVCA) presents an established approach to restore form and function of patients with catastrophic facial defects. Skin is one of the target tissues of the rejection process, and due to its easy accessibility has become the gold standard in the diagnosis of rejection. Mucosal rejection frequently occurs; however, the added value of mucosal rejection assessment for patient management is unknown. Methods. We conducted a systematic review of manuscripts listed in the MEDLINE/PubMed and GoogleScholar databases to identify articles that provide data on mucosal rejection following fVCA. For inclusion, papers had to be available as full-text and written in English. Non-VCA studies and animal studies were excluded. We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Results. We included 17 articles that described changes in allotransplanted mucosa of fVCAs. These articles yielded data on 168 BANFF graded biopsies of corresponding skin and mucosa biopsies. Rejection grades were consistently higher in mucosal biopsies. Concordance between allograft skin and mucosa biopsy grades increased with an increasing skin-BANFF grade. Mucosa rejection grades were on average lower in the early stages of the posttransplant period (<postoperative mo 12, time of motor, and sensory recovery) when compared to the later stages (>postoperative mo 12). Conclusions. The mucosa of facial allotransplants is one of the primary targets of rejection. The data indicates that higher-grade skin rejection does not occur in absence of mucosal rejection. Further investigations are needed to elucidate the exact role of mucosal biopsies for fVCA patient management.
Face transplantation is a viable treatment option for carefully selected patients with devastating injuries to the face. However, acute rejection episodes occur in more than 80% of recipients in the first postoperative year. Unfortunately, neither a correlation between histological grades of rejection and anti-rejection treatment nor systemic surrogate markers of rejection in face transplantation are established in clinical routine. Therefore, we utilized next generation aptamer-based SOMAscan proteomics platform for non-invasive rejection biomarker discovery. Longitudinal serum samples from face transplant recipients with long-term follow-up were included in this study. From the 1,310 proteins analyzed by SOMAscan, a 5-protein signature (MMP3, ACY1, IL1R2, SERPINA4, CPB2) was able to discriminate severe rejection from both no-rejection and nonsevere rejection samples. Technical validation on ELISA platform showed high correlation with the SOMAscan data for the MMP3 protein (rs = 0.99). Additionally, MMP3 levels were significantly increased during severe rejection as compared to no-rejection (p = 0.0009) and nonsevere rejection (p = 0.0173) episodes. Pathway analyses revealed significant activation of the metallopeptidase activity during severe face transplant rejection. This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility of SOMAscan to identify non-invasive candidate biomarkers of rejection in face transplantation. Further validation in a larger independent patient cohort is needed.
Adoptive cell transfer of ex vivo expanded regulatory T cells (Tregs) has shown immense potential in animal models of auto- and alloimmunity. However, the effective translation of such Treg therapies to the clinic has been slow. Because Treg homeostasis is known to require continuous T cell receptor (TCR) ligation and exogenous interleukin-2 (IL-2), some investigators have explored the use of low-dose IL-2 injections to increase endogenous Treg responses. Systemic IL-2 immunotherapy, however, can also lead to the activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, causing adverse therapeutic outcomes. Here, we describe a drug delivery platform, which can be engineered to autostimulate Tregs with IL-2 in response to TCR-dependent activation, and thus activate these cells in sites of antigen encounter. To this end, protein nanogels (NGs) were synthesized with cleavable bis(N-hydroxysuccinimide) cross-linkers and IL-2/Fc fusion (IL-2) proteins to form particles that release IL-2 under reducing conditions, as found at the surface of T cells receiving stimulation through the TCR. Tregs surface-conjugated with IL-2 NGs were found to have preferential, allograft-protective effects relative to unmodified Tregs or Tregs stimulated with systemic IL-2. We demonstrate that murine and human NG–modified Tregs carrying an IL-2 cargo perform better than conventional Tregs in suppressing alloimmunity in murine and humanized mouse allotransplantation models. In all, the technology presented in this study has the potential to improve Treg transfer therapy by enabling the regulated spatiotemporal provision of IL-2 to antigen-primed Tregs.
IMPORTANCE Acute rejection is one of the most frequent complications in facial transplantation, with potentially severe consequences for the recipient if overlooked. Clinical signs, such as erythema or edema, are helpful to diagnose acute rejection in the early follow-up stage; however, it is not well known whether these clinical signs remain reliable markers of acute rejection beyond the second posttransplant year. OBJECTIVE To determine the diagnostic value of clinical signs of acute rejection after facial transplantation over time. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A retrospective, single-center cohort study was conducted of patients who underwent facial transplantation at Brigham and Women's Hospital between April 2009 and October 2014, with up to an 8-year follow-up. Medical records were reviewed until September 30, 2017. The medical records from 104 encounters with 7 patients who underwent partial or full facial transplantation were analyzed for symptoms of rejection, immunosuppressive therapy, and histopathologic findings. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The occurrence of 5 clinical signs of acute rejection were evaluated: erythema, edema, exanthema, suture line erythema, and mucosal lesions. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated to determine the statistically significant association of these signs with the histopathologic diagnosis of rejection. In addition, tacrolimus blood levels, as a surrogate marker of immunosuppressive therapy, were evaluated. RESULTS Of the 7 patients included in the study, 5 were men. The mean follow-up was 66 months (range, 35-101). Of 104 clinical encounters, 46 encounters (44.2%) represented rejection episodes and 58 encounters (55.8%) represented no-rejection episodes. Beyond 2 years posttransplantation, only erythema (OR, 6.53; 95% CI, 1.84-20.11; P = .004) and exanthema (OR, ϱ; 95% CI, 2.2-ϱ; P = .004) were demonstrated to be reliable clinical signs of acute rejection in facial transplantation. There was also a statistically significant association of subtherapeutic tacrolimus levels with late rejection episodes (OR, 3.79; 95% CI, 1.25-12.88; P = .03). In addition, the occurrence of subclinical rejection was more frequent during later follow-up times (7 [24.1%] late rejections vs 1 [5.9%] early rejection). Five of 8 subclinical rejections (62.5%) were associated with subtherapeutic tacrolimus levels. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Clinical signs of acute rejection in facial transplantation appear to be of limited diagnostic value, particularly after the second postoperative year. Until alternative biomarkers for rejection are identified, protocol skin biopsies will remain necessary for guiding assessments of allograft rejection. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE 3.
Background: A critical barrier to successful limb replantation and allotransplantation is the maximum allowable limb ischemia time of 4 to 6 hours. The current gold standard is to preserve amputated limbs on an ice slurry. Experimental machine perfusion has yielded promising results as an alternative. In particular, hypothermic acellular perfusion has enabled preservation of amputated limbs for up to 12 hours thus far. Methods: Amputated forelimbs of Yorkshire pigs were preserved on static cold storage at 4°C for 4 hours (static cold storage group) or perfused at 8°C for 24 hours (perfusion group) with oxygenated modified STEEN Solution perfusate before replantation. Animals were followed up for 7 days after replantation. Results: Eight animals underwent replantation (cold storage group, n = 4; perfusion group, n = 4). Seventy-five and 100 percent of animals in the static cold storage and perfusion groups survived for 7 days, respectively. Glycogen and adenosine triphosphate remained stable throughout perfusion. Heart and respiratory rate after replantation were increased in the static cold storage group. There was increased damage in muscle biopsy specimens obtained from animals in the static cold storage group after 7 days when compared with those from animals in the perfusion group. Conclusions: Hypothermic acellular ex vivo perfusion of limbs for up to 24 hours enables tissue preservation comparable to that obtained with conventional static cold storage for 4 hours and may reduce muscle damage and systemic reactions on limb replantation. Translation to human limbs may help improve limb replantation and allotransplantation outcomes.
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