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Semin Immunol. 2007 Oct;19(5):280-8. Epub 2007 Nov 9.

Human thymus regeneration and T cell reconstitution.

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Department of Cell Biology & Histology, Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The thymus supports the development of T cells throughout life from hematopoietic progenitor cells migrating from the bone marrow. During the early years after birth thymic activity is highest, but progressively declines resulting in diminished naïve T cell output. Underlying causes of thymic involution may be degeneration of the stromal thymic network, providing survival and differentiation factors for developing T cells, or insufficiency of the progenitor cells to home and/or develop in the aged thymus. In young people the reduced thymic output is insignificant, since the peripheral T cell compartment is under compensatory homeostatic control. However, in more or less immunocompromised individuals, including aged people and patients depleted of T cells due to conditioning regimens before bone marrow transplantation or HIV infection, the thymus is necessary to replenish the peripheral T cell compartment. This may require rejuvenation of the thymus. Alternatively, approaches to generate mature T cells independent of the thymus have gained considerable interest.

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