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Tinkering with Thymi

Building a functional human thymus in a rat thymus scaffold using post-natal progenitor cells

13 January 2021

Tinkering with Thymi

When it comes to targeted attacks against invaders, T-cells reign supreme. These immune cells are made in your bone marrow but mature in your thymus (lying under your breastbone). In congenital athymia, children are born without a thymus, making infections potentially life-threatening. Current treatments are limited but now researchers investigate the possibility of recreating a human thymus in the lab. Cells were isolated from human thymi and grown in a dish to increase their numbers. Rat thymi were then isolated and cells from both of their lobes, captured using micro-CT (pictured, left), were removed by filling their blood vessels (right) with a special fluid. What remained were scaffolds of whole thymi made of extracellular matrix. The scaffolds were repopulated with human thymus cells and developed into functional human thymi, as proven by transplanting them into mice and showing that they could support T-cell maturation. This brings us closer to growing human thymus transplants.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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