Cells potentiate the reconstruction of essential organs of the immune system

IResearchers at the University of Porto’s Institute for Health Research and Innovation (i3S) have discovered a new cell subtype in the thymus that may improve the development of therapies for rebuilding this “fundamental” organ. of the immune system.

In a press release, the institute reveals on Monday that researchers have discovered a “new population of cells” which contribute to the formation and activity of the thymus, the “fundamental” organ of the immune system and where lymphocytes are formed. T. its ability to produce T lymphocytes very early”, notes the i3S, noting that these cells are fundamental in the response to pathogens and tumors, but also in the prevention of autoimmune diseases.

In order to reactivate the production of T cells in people with weakened immune systems, understanding the origin of the different cells that make up the microenvironment of the thymus, namely epithelial cells, fibroblasts and endothelial cells, becomes “critical”.

In this sense, the researchers looked into this microenvironment of the thymus and identified “for the first time” the progenitors that give rise to thymic fibroblasts and that function as a “support network” where T lymphocytes develop.

Quoted in the press release, Pedro Ferreirinha, one of the authors of the article, specifies that in the thymus “a population with stem characteristics predominates” and, later, the population of fibroblasts is gradually replaced by another “more mature” population. and functional”.

“We realized that these populations share a close relationship in terms of development, that is, the progenitor fibroblasts disappear and give rise to more differentiated fibroblasts”, explains Ruben Pinheiro, also author of the study, adding that this occurs when thymic function begins to reach peak T-cell production. This, the researcher points out, reinforces the idea that “throughout life, T-cell production depletes the functionality of the thymus microenvironment” .

According to the researchers, the next goal is to understand whether in immunocompromised people these cell subtypes “are altered or non-functional”. This discovery could potentiate the development of therapies capable of reconstructing the thymus or regenerating its function in the elderly and immunocompromised.

Regarding this possibility, the researcher Nuno Alves, who conducted the study, points out that one of the solutions to correct the thymic function “is to regenerate the aged thymus” and the other “to artificially reconstruct this organ” “to pass to the second option”. is essential for understanding the origin of the various cells that make up the complex and intriguing thymic microenvironment,” he adds.

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