Indexed on: 01 Aug '20Published on: 01 Aug '20Published in: Frontiers in immunology
Thymic involution is an important factor leading to the aging of the immune system. Most of what we know regarding thymic aging comes from mouse models, and the nature of the thymic aging process in humans remains largely unexplored due to the lack of a model system that permits longitudinal studies of human thymic involution. In this study, we sought to explore the potential to examine human thymic involution in humanized mice, constructed by transplantation of fetal human thymus and CD34 hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells into immunodeficient mice. In these humanized mice, the human thymic graft first underwent acute recoverable involution caused presumably by transplantation stress, followed by an age-related chronic form of involution. Although both the early recoverable and later age-related thymic involution were associated with a decrease in thymic epithelial cells and recent thymic emigrants, only the latter was associated with an increase in adipose tissue mass in the thymus. Furthermore, human thymic grafts showed a dramatic reduction in and expression by 10 weeks post-transplantation. This study indicates that human thymus retains its intrinsic mechanisms of aging and susceptibility to stress-induced involution when transplanted into immunodeficient mice, offering a potentially useful model to study human thymic involution and to test therapeutic interventions. Copyright © 2020 Tong, Zhang, Guo, Li, Yao, Wang, Yang and Sun.