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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Aug 6;93(16):8558-62.

Thymus transplantation, a critical factor for correction of autoimmune disease in aging MRL/+mice.

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  • 1First Department of Pathology, Kansai Medical University, Osaka, Japan.


MRL/MP-+/+ (MRL/+) mice develop pancreatitis and sialoadenitis after they reach 7 months of age. Conventional bone marrow transplantation has been found to be ineffective in the treatment of these forms of apparent autoimmune disease. Old MRL/+ mice show a dramatic thymic involution with age. Hematolymphoid reconstitution is incomplete when fetal liver cells (as a source of hemopoietic stem cells) plus fetal bone (FB; which is used to recruit stromal cells) are transplanted from immunologically normal C57BL/6 donor mice to MRL/+ female recipients. Embryonic thymus from allogeneic C57BL/6 donors was therefore engrafted along with either bone marrow or fetal hematopoietic cells (FHCs) plus fragments of adult or fetal bone. More than seventy percent of old MRL/+ mice (> 7 months) that had been given a fetal thymus (FT) transplant plus either bone marrow or FHCs and also bone fragments survived more than 100 days after treatment. The mice that received FHCs, FB, plus FT from allogeneic donors developed normal T cell and B cell functions. Serum amylase levels decreased in these mice whereas they increased in the mice that received FHCs and FB but not FT. The pancreatitis and sialoadenitis already present at the time of transplantations were fully corrected according to histological analysis by transplants of allogeneic FHCs, FB and FT in the MRL/+ mice. These findings are taken as an experimental indication that perhaps stem cell transplants along with FT grafts might represent a useful strategy for treatment of autoimmune diseases in aged humans.

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