Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
N Engl J Med. 2000 May 4;342(18):1325-32.

Thymic function after hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation for the treatment of severe combined immunodeficiency.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, Human Vaccine Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.



Immune function can be restored in infants with severe combined immunodeficiency by transplantation of unfractionated bone marrow from HLA-identical donors or T-cell-depleted marrow stem cells from haploidentical donors, with whom there is a single haplotype mismatch, without the need for chemotherapy before transplantation or prophylaxis against graft-versus-host disease. The role of the thymus in this process is unknown.


We analyzed the phenotypes of circulating T cells and the proliferative responses of peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to phytohemagglutinin in 83 patients with severe combined immunodeficiency who received allogeneic marrow transplants without T-cell ablation from related donors over an 18-year period. We also tested for the presence of episomes of T-cell antigen receptors (extrachromosomal DNA circles formed during intrathymic T-cell development) to assess thymus-dependent T-cell reconstitution.


Before and early after transplantation, the numbers of circulating T cells were low, with a predominance of mature CD45RO+ T cells (primarily resulting from the transplacental transfer of maternal cells); T-cell antigen-receptor episomes were undetectable in peripheral-blood mononuclear cells. In 73 of the infants, thymus-derived T cells expressing CD45RA and T-cell antigen-receptor episomes were detected within three to six weeks after transplantation. The mean (+/-SD) value for thymus-dependent T-cell antigen-receptor episomes peaked (at 7311+/-8652 per microgram of peripheral-blood mononuclear-cell DNA) 1 to 2 years after transplantation and declined to low levels (less than 100 episomes per microgram of DNA) within 14 years, as compared with a gradual decline from birth to the age of about 80 years in normal subjects.


The vestigial thymus in infants with severe combined immunodeficiency is functional and can produce enough T cells after bone marrow transplantation to provide normal immune function.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk