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Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2010 Aug;10(4):408-24. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2010.04.015. Epub 2010 Jun 4.

Rejuvenation of the aging thymus: growth hormone-mediated and ghrelin-mediated signaling pathways.

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Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute on Aging, NIH, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


One of the major fundamental causes for the aging of the immune system is the structural and functional involution of the thymus, and the associated decline in de novo naïve T-lymphocyte output. This loss of naïve T-cell production weakens the ability of the adaptive immune system to respond to new antigenic stimuli and eventually leads to a peripheral T-cell bias to the memory phenotype. While the precise mechanisms responsible for age-associated thymic involution remain unknown, a variety of theories have been forwarded including the loss of expression of various growth factors and hormones that influence the lymphoid compartment and promote thymic function. Extensive studies examining two hormones, namely growth hormone (GH) and ghrelin (GRL), have demonstrated their contributions to thymus biology. In the current review, we discuss the literature supporting a role for these hormones in thymic physiology and age-associated thymic involution and their potential use in the restoration of thymic function in aged and immunocompromised individuals.

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