Thymus is the power plant that produces the immune system's T cells, which combats infection in the body. However, this vital organ is one of the first to decrease in function as we age, resulting in a gradual loss of T cell production and eventually increased susceptibility to infections and cancer in the elderly.
Researchers in the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have for the first time identified factors affecting the cells of the thymus that involved this loss and the mechanisms behind it.
Their study, published in Cell Reports today paves the way for developing targeted strategies for the recovery of T cells to combat infections and cancer.
Professor Ann Chidgey, senior author, said it had been known for a time that the thymus-a small organ was located beneath the collar bone-degenerate from puberty onwards. But the mechanisms underlying this were unclear.
"Our thymus is most productive shortly after birth and produces a complete repertoire of T cells, but then slowly begins to lose function. When we live longer, the diversity of our T cells decreases and we become more susceptible to infections,"
"It will also be harder to restore our T cell immunity after damage from cancer treatments such as chemotherapy that destroys much of our immune cells."
The study showed what was behind this degeneration: factors affecting the epithelial cells of the thymus. [1
"This is the first time someone has identified the basis for mature thymic epithelial cell loss and the molecules involved in the dysfunction of the thymic epithelial cells in aging. By doing so, we can now focus on how to turn and re-thymus again. , even just transient, to complement our T cell diversity, "she said.
"We believe these changes can be reversed and begin new investigations to see if we can develop a treatment that focuses on thymic epithelial cell regeneration."
Inflammation-induced deterioration of structural proteins contributes to aging
Cell Reports (2019). DOI: 10,1016 / j.celrep.2019.05.045, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.05.045
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