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Microsc Res Tech. 2004 Feb 1;63(2):94-101.

Age-dependent changes in the nervous and endocrine control of the thymus.

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Department of Psychiatry, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The immune system, especially the thymus, undergoes age-related modifications leading to structural and functional changes in the lymphoid organs and immunocompetent cells. Nevertheless, the consequences of thymic involution in the peripheral pool of T-cells are still a matter of controversy. The control of the thymic function is very complex and involves intrathymic signals, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system. Both thymocytes and thymic stromal cells express receptors for a wide range of hormones, as well as for neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, thus affecting thymocytes maturation. This review summarizes the age-dependent variations in the extrathymic components of the thymic microenvironment, i.e., vegetative nerves and hormones, and the possible effects of those changes in the immune function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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