Thymic involution and immune reconstitution

Trends Immunol. 2009 Jul;30(7):366-73. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Jun 18.


Chronic thymus involution associated with aging results in less efficient T-cell development and decreased emigration of naïve T cells to the periphery. Thymic decline in the aged is linked to increased morbidity and mortality in a wide range of clinical settings. Negative consequences of these effects on global health make it of paramount importance to understand the mechanisms driving thymic involution and homeostatic processes across the lifespan. There is growing evidence that thymus tissue is plastic and that the involution process might be therapeutically halted or reversed. We present here progress on the exploitation of thymosuppressive and thymostimulatory pathways using factors such as keratinocyte growth factor, interleukin 7 or sex steroid ablation for therapeutic thymus restoration and peripheral immune reconstitution in adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 7 / immunology
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 7 / pharmacology*
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology
  • Interleukin-7 / pharmacology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / drug effects*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Interleukin-7
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 7