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Thymus gland absence after adolescence
Apr 29, 2001

I have a question regarding the hormones that are found in the thymus gland that help the WBC mature fully to help fight infection. I'm not very educated on this subject, but I did have a relative die from AIDS. Is there any work being done on producing synthetic Thymosins & Thymopoietins hormones as a treatment for AIDS? Or am I way off. Please Help.

Response from Dr. Pavia

The thymus does not dissappear after adolescence, although it does shrink with age and become less active. Studies by Rick Koup and others recently showed some thymus activity in patients with AIDS out to at least age 50, although the younger you are, the more robust the thymus. Nonetheless, after about 6 months of complete virus suppression on HAART, almost all patients have increase in what are called naive CD4 cells, indicating that there is thymic reserve.

There were a number of studies with thymus extracts, thymosin and other "thymic hormones" in the early 90's. To my knowledge, none showed any convincing benefit. This may be because the thymus is a complex organ in which the architecture is as important as any thymic products.

Thymus transplants have been successfully used for children with DiGeorge syndrome who essentially have no thymus(pioneered by a group at Duke). Whether this would be possible or of any benefit in AIDS is unclear.



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