Surgical Technique for Vascularized Thymus Transplantation in Mice
Traditionally, mouse nonvascularized thymus implants have been used to investigate various aspects of thymus function. However, these grafts are easily damaged by ischemia and fail to reproduce the normal anatomy of the thymus. In addition, the function of these grafts has not been fully examined. We have recently developed a vascularized thymus transplant model in mice. The donor operation consists of isolating the right lobe of the thymus and creating a single vascular pathway. In the recipient surgery, end-to-side anastomoses between donor brachycephalic artery and recipient right common carotid artery, and between donor superior caval vein and recipient right external jugular vein, were performed. We performed 10 consecutive isografts in BALB/c mice with a success rate of 90%. The thymus grafts had a normal histology and function. This study illustrates that it is technically possible to transplant a mouse vascular thymus graft. This model has several advantages that make it a useful tool to study many aspects of thymus function. We plan to use this model further to study the potential for induction of tolerance by thymus grafts.