Volume 885 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 125-153


Small Animal Models of Xenotransplantation

  • Hao WangAffiliated withDepartment of General Surgery, Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, Tianjin General Surgery InstituteDepartment of Surgery, Western UniversityMulti-Organ Transplant Program, University Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre Email author 

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Organ transplantation has become a successful and acceptable treatment for end-stage organ failure. Such success has allowed transplant patients to resume a normal lifestyle. The demands for transplantation have been steadily increasing, as more patients and new diseases are being deemed eligible for treatment via transplantation. However, it is clear that human organs will never meet the increasing demand of transplantation. Therefore, scientists must continue to pursue alternative therapies and explore new treatments to meet the growing demand for the limited number of organs available. Transplanting organs from animals into humans (xenotransplantation) is one such therapy. The observed enthusiasm for xenotransplantation, irrespective of the severe shortage of human organs and tissues available for transplantation, can be said to stem from at least two factors. First, there is the possibility that animal organs and tissues might be less susceptible than those of humans to the recurrence of disease processes. Second, a xenograft might be used as a vehicle for introducing novel genes or biochemical processes which could be of therapeutic value for the transplant recipient.

To date, millions of lives have been saved by organ transplantation. These remarkable achievements would have been impossible without experimental transplantation research in animal models. Presently, more than 95% of organ transplantation research projects are carried out using rodents, such as rats and mice. The key factor to ensure the success of these experiments lies in state-of-the art experimental surgery. Small animal models offer unique advantages for the mechanistic study of xenotransplantation rejection. Currently, multiple models have been developed for investigating the different stages of immunological barriers in xenotransplantation. In this chapter, we describe six valuable small animal models that have been used in xenotransplantation research. The methodology for the small animal model establishment includes animal selection, preoperative care, anesthesia, postoperative care, and detailed procedures.

Key words

Xenotransplantation Animal models Microsurgery Rodents Heart transplantation Kidney transplantation Small bowel transplantation Vascularized thymus transplantation Vascularized ear transplantation Limb transplantation