INTRODUCTION: Tissue loss as a consequence of congenital anomalies, trauma, malignancy, or gangrene represents a major health care problem in the United States. Because younger individuals are disproportionately affected, the costs are magnified over time and the resultant individual and societal effects are tremendous. The currently available options to restore soft tissue defects are associated with donor site morbidities. Vascularized composite allotransplantation may provide form, function, and esthetics without a donor site; however, it comes with the significant risk associated with toxic immunosuppression (Biomaterials. 2015;61:246-256, Ann Plast Surg. 2015;75(1):112-116, Transplantation. 2009;88(2):203-210). Engineered tissues offer promise in finding viable alternatives to allograft and autologous tissues. In this study, we present our simple and quick method to decellularize a muscle without disrupting the vascular network integrity or the extracellular matrix. Optimizing the decellularization process is a crucial step toward creating an "off-the-shelf" flap that can be used for soft tissue reconstruction. METHODS: The superficial gracilis muscle of 20 rats were harvested on their circulation and decellularized using perfusion with Krebs-Henseleit buffer and sodium dodecyl sulfate for 6 hours. These flaps were evaluated by gross morphology, histology, DNA quantification, integrity of the vascular network, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. RESULTS: All samples were decellularized successfully as determined by DNA content and histological analysis for cellular content. The vascular network was preserved in all samples. CONCLUSIONS: We present a quick, simple, and affordable method to decellularize a muscle flap through the vascular network. Our proposed method is efficient and can be completed in a significantly shorter time when compared with other methods. It is also safe and does not affect integrity of tissue, and this is essential for a reliable recellularization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas