Although cyclosporine (CsA) is a powerful immunosuppressive agent in organ transplantation, its efficacy in skin transplantation has not been examined completely. We have tested it as primary immunosuppression in a rat skin allograft model. Histoincompatible Brown-Norway skin grafts are rejected in untreated Lewis hosts within 9 ± 1 days but survive for 22 ± 3, 34 ± 2, or 41 ± 8 days after 7, 14, or 21 days of CsA treatment (15 mg/kg per day subcutaneously), respectively (p < 0.001). Animals treated daily for 4 weeks died from drug toxicity; however, an initial 2-week course followed by a low maintenance dose (15 mg/kg every fourth day) produced indefinite (>150 days) graft acceptance without side effects. The long-surviving grafts were supple, grew long hair, and showed normal histology. When the drug was stopped at any time during this maintenance period, early signs of rejection (hair loss, epidermal breakdown, and localized ulceration) occurred, which could be reversed completely by a short CsA “pulse” (15 mg/kg per day for 7 days). These experimental data support the potential application of CsA immunosuppression in human skin allotransplantation.
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