Thymus transplantation

Last updated
Thymus transplantation
ICD-9-CM 07.94

Thymus transplantation is a form of organ transplantation where the thymus is moved from one body to another.



Thymus transplantation can be used to treat infants with DiGeorge syndrome, which results in an absent or hypoplastic thymus, in turn causing problems with the immune system's T-cell mediated response. It is exclusively used in people with complete DiGeorge anomaly, which are entirely athymic. This subgroup represents less than 1% of DiGeorge syndrome patients. [1]

Nezelof syndrome is another thymus-related disease where it can be used.

Effects and prognosis

A study of 54 DiGeorge syndrome infants resulted in all tested subjects having developed polyclonal T-cell repertoires and proliferative responses to mitogens. The procedure was well tolerated and resulted in stable immunoreconstitution in these infants. It had a survival rate of 75%, having a follow-up as long as 13 years. [1]

Complications include an increased susceptibility to infections while the T cells have not yet developed, rashes and erythema. [1]

Graft-versus-host disease

Theoretically, thymus transplantation could cause two types of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD): First, it could cause a donor T cell-related GVHD, because of T cells from the donor that are present in the transplanted thymus that recognizes the recipient as foreign. Donor T cells can be detected in the recipient after transplantation, but there is no evidence of any donor T cell-related graft-versus-host disease. [1] [2]

Second, a thymus transplantation can cause a non-donor T cell-related GVHD because the recipients thymocytes would use the donor thymus cells as models when going through the negative selection to recognize self-antigens, and could therefore still mistake own structures in the rest of the body for being non-self. This is a rather indirect GVHD because it is not directly cells in the graft itself that causes it, but cells in the graft that make the recipient's T cells act like donor T cells. It would also be of relatively late-onset because it requires the formation of new T cells. It can be seen as a multiple-organ autoimmunity in xenotransplantation experiments of the thymus between different species. [3] Autoimmune disease is a frequent complication after human allogeneic thymus transplantation, found in 42% of subjects over 1 year post transplantation. [4] However, this is partially explained by that the indication itself, that is, complete DiGeorge syndrome, increases the risk of autoimmune disease. [1]

Related Research Articles

Thymus organ of the immune system

The thymus is a specialized primary lymphoid organ of the immune system. Within the thymus, T cells mature. T cells are critical to the adaptive immune system, where the body adapts specifically to foreign invaders. The thymus is composed of two identical lobes and is located in the anterior superior mediastinum, in front of the heart and behind the sternum. Each lobe of the thymus can be divided into a central medulla and a peripheral cortex which is surrounded by an outer capsule.

Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an "autoimmune disease". Prominent examples include celiac disease, post-infectious IBS, diabetes mellitus type 1, Henloch Scholein Pupura (HSP) sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren syndrome, eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, Addison's disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis, polymyositis (PM), dermatomyositis (DM) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Autoimmune diseases are very often treated with steroids.

Immunosuppression decreased resistance to infection; reduction of the activation or efficacy of the immune system

Immunosuppression is a reduction of the activation or efficacy of the immune system. Some portions of the immune system itself have immunosuppressive effects on other parts of the immune system, and immunosuppression may occur as an adverse reaction to treatment of other conditions.

T cell type of lymphocyte

A T cell is a type of lymphocyte, which develops in the thymus gland and plays a central role in the immune response. T cells can be distinguished from other lymphocytes by the presence of a T-cell receptor on the cell surface. These immune cells originate as precursor cells, derived from bone marrow, and develop into several distinct types of T cells once they have migrated to the thymus gland. T cell differentiation continues even after they have left the thymus.

Transplant rejection rejection of transplanted tissue by the recipients immune system

Transplant rejection occurs when transplanted tissue is rejected by the recipient's immune system, which destroys the transplanted tissue. Transplant rejection can be lessened by determining the molecular similitude between donor and recipient and by use of immunosuppressant drugs after transplant.

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation Medical procedure to replace blood or immune stem cells

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the transplantation of multipotent hematopoietic stem cells, usually derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood. It may be autologous, allogeneic or syngeneic.

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a syndrome, characterized by inflammation in different organs, with the specificity of epithelial cell apoptosis and crypt drop out. GvHD is commonly associated with stem cell transplants such as those that occur with bone marrow transplants. GvHD also applies to other forms of transplanted tissues such as solid organ transplants.

Immunodeficiency or immunocompromise is a state in which the immune system's ability to fight infectious disease and cancer is compromised or entirely absent. Most cases of immunodeficiency are acquired ("secondary") due to extrinsic factors that affect the patient's immune system. Examples of these extrinsic factors include HIV infection and environmental factors, such as nutrition. In the clinical setting, the immunosuppression by some drugs, such as steroids, can be either an adverse effect or the intended purpose of the treatment. Examples of such use is in organ transplant surgery as an anti-rejection measure and in patients suffering from an overactive immune system, as in autoimmune diseases. Some people are born with intrinsic defects in their immune system, or primary immunodeficiency. A person who has an immunodeficiency of any kind is said to be immunocompromised. An immunocompromised person may be particularly vulnerable to opportunistic infections, in addition to normal infections that could affect everyone. Immunodeficiency also decreases cancer immunosurveillance, in which the immune system scans the body's cells and kills neoplastic ones.

FOXP3 mammalian protein found in Homo sapiens

FOXP3, also known as scurfin, is a protein involved in immune system responses. A member of the FOX protein family, FOXP3 appears to function as a master regulator of the regulatory pathway in the development and function of regulatory T cells. Regulatory T cells generally turn the immune response down. In cancer, an excess of regulatory T cell activity can prevent the immune system from destroying cancer cells. In autoimmune disease, a deficiency of regulatory T cell activity can allow other autoimmune cells to attack the body's own tissues.

Omenn syndrome Human disease

Omenn syndrome is an autosomal recessive severe combined immunodeficiency. It is associated with hypomorphic missense mutations in immunologically relevant genes of T-cells such as recombination activating genes, Interleukin-7 receptor-α (IL7Rα), DCLRE1C-Artemis, RMRP-CHH, DNA-Ligase IV, common gamma chain, WHN-FOXN1, ZAP-70 and complete DiGeorge syndrome. It is fatal without treatment.

DiGeorge syndrome Synonym for 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. T cell deficiency disease that is the result of a large deletion of chromosome 22 which includes the DGS gene needed for development of the thymus and related glands with subsequent lack of T-cell production

DiGeorge syndrome, also known as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, is a syndrome caused by the deletion of a small segment of chromosome 22. While the symptoms can vary, they often include congenital heart problems, specific facial features, frequent infections, developmental delay, learning problems and cleft palate. Associated conditions include kidney problems, hearing loss and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or Graves' disease.

IPEX syndrome hypersensitivity reaction type II disease characterized by onset in infancy of refractory diarrhea, endocrinopathies, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and dermatitis that has material basis in mutation in the FOXP3 gene on chromosome Xp11

Immunodysregulation polyendocrinopathy enteropathy X-linkedsyndrome is a rare disease linked to the dysfunction of the transcription factor FOXP3, widely considered to be the master regulator of the regulatory T cell lineage. It leads to the dysfunction of regulatory T-cells and the subsequent autoimmunity. The disorder is one of the autoimmune polyendocrine syndromes and manifests with autoimmune enteropathy, psoriasiform or eczematous dermatitis, nail dystrophy, autoimmune endocrinopathies, and autoimmune skin conditions such as alopecia universalis and bullous pemphigoid. Management for IPEX has seen limited success in treating the syndrome by bone marrow transplantation.

X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency immunodeficiency disorder in which the body produces very few T cells and NK cells

X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (X-SCID) is an immunodeficiency disorder in which the body produces very few T cells and NK cells.

Immune tolerance, or immunological tolerance, or immunotolerance, is a state of unresponsiveness of the immune system to substances or tissue that have the capacity to elicit an immune response in a given organism. It is induced by prior exposure to that specific antigen and contrasts with conventional immune-mediated elimination of foreign antigens. Tolerance is classified into central tolerance or peripheral tolerance depending on where the state is originally induced—in the thymus and bone marrow (central) or in other tissues and lymph nodes (peripheral). The mechanisms by which these forms of tolerance are established are distinct, but the resulting effect is similar.

Thymocytes are hematopoietic progenitor cells present in the thymus. Thymopoiesis is the process in the thymus by which thymocytes differentiate into mature T lymphocytes. The primary function of thymocytes is the generation of T lymphocytes. The thymus provides an inductive environment, which allows for the development and selection of physiologically useful T cells. The processes of beta-selection, positive selection, and negative selection shape the population of thymocytes into a peripheral pool of T cells that are able to respond to foreign pathogens and are immunologically tolerant towards self antigens.

Minor histocompatibility antigen

Minor histocompatibility antigen are receptors on the cellular surface of donated organs that are known to give an immunological response in some organ transplants. They cause problems of rejection less frequently than those of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Minor histocompatibility antigens (MiHAs) are diverse, short segments of proteins and are referred to as peptides. These peptides are normally around 9-12 amino acids in length and are bound to both the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and class II proteins. Peptide sequences can differ among individuals and these differences arise from SNPs in the coding region of genes, gene deletions, frameshift mutations, or insertions. About a third of the characterized MiHAs come from the Y chromosome. The proteins are composed of a single immunogenic HLA allele. Prior to becoming a short peptide sequence, the proteins expressed by these polymorphic or diverse genes need to be digested in the proteasome into shorter peptides. These endogenous or self peptides are then transported into the endoplasmic reticulum with a peptide transporter pump called TAP where they encounter and bind to the MHC class I molecule. This contrasts with MHC class II molecules's antigens which are peptides derived from phagocytosis/endocytosis and molecular degradation of non-self entities' proteins, usually by antigen-presenting cells. MiHA antigens are either ubiquitously expressed in most tissue like skin and intestines or restrictively expressed in the immune cells.

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is a serious chronic leukemia that affects children mostly aged 4 and younger. The name JMML now encompasses all diagnoses formerly referred to as juvenile chronic myeloid leukemia (JCML), chronic myelomonocytic leukemia of infancy, and infantile monosomy 7 syndrome. The average age of patients at diagnosis is 2 years old. The World Health Organization has included JMML in the category of myelodysplastic and myeloproliferative disorders.

Transplantable organs and tissues may both refer to organs and tissues that are relatively often or routinely transplanted, as well as relatively seldom transplanted organs and tissues and ones on the experimental stage.

Microtransplantation(MST) is an advanced technology to treat malignant hematological diseases and tumors by infusing patients with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) mobilized human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-mismatched allogeneic peripheral blood stem cells following a reduced-intensity chemotherapy or targeted therapy. The term "microtransplantation" comes from its mechanism of reaching donor cell microchimerism. Chemotherapy is used by lower doses only to destroy cancer and partially suppress patient’s immune system, which will be reinitiated by donor’s stem cells soon after transplantation, and will play a role as recipient-versus-tumor (RVT) effect combining donor cells’ graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effect. Donor’s stem cells, which have been processed, will also accelerate functional recovery of recipient’s hematopoietic stem cells, greatly reducing infections and transplant-related mortality. Practices of microtransplantation has shown none graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) till present, thus immunosuppressive drugs for relieving GVHD wouldn't be necessary. Possible mechanisms of the successful avoidance of GVHD include donor cell microchimerism, less-toxic cells processed prior to transplantation, and the preservation of host immune system that is capable of resisting the GVH alloresponse. Moreover, as HLA-mismatched stem cells are employed, donor availability is extremely extended.

T-cell depletion (TCD) is the process of T cell removal or reduction, which alters the immune system and its response. Depletion can occur naturally or be induced for treatment purposes. TCD can reduce the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is a common issue in transplants. The idea that TCD of the allograft can eliminate GVHD was first introduced in 1958. In humans the first TCD was performed in severe combined immunodeficiency patients.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Markert ML, Devlin BH, Alexieff MJ, et al. (May 2007). "Review of 54 patients with complete DiGeorge anomaly enrolled in protocols for thymus transplantation: outcome of 44 consecutive transplants". Blood. 109 (10): 4539–47. doi:10.1182/blood-2006-10-048652. PMC   1885498 . PMID   17284531.
  2. Markert ML, Boeck A, Hale LP, et al. (October 1999). "Transplantation of thymus tissue in complete DiGeorge syndrome". N. Engl. J. Med. 341 (16): 1180–9. doi:10.1056/NEJM199910143411603. PMID   10523153.
  3. Xia G, Goebels J, Rutgeerts O, Vandeputte M, Waer M (February 2001). "Transplantation tolerance and autoimmunity after xenogeneic thymus transplantation". J. Immunol. 166 (3): 1843–54. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.166.3.1843 . PMID   11160231.
  4. Thymus Transplantation Book Thymus Gland Pathology Publisher Springer Milan DOI 10.1007/978-88-470-0828-1 Copyright 2008 ISBN   978-88-470-0827-4 (Print) 978-88-470-0828-1 (Online) DOI 10.1007/978-88-470-0828-1_30 Pages 255-267