The role of sex steroids and gonadectomy in the control of thymic function

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Hince, Melanie, Sakkal, Samy, Vlahos, Katerina, Dudakov, Jarrod, Boyd, Richard L and Chidgey, Ann P (2008) The role of sex steroids and gonadectomy in the control of thymic function. Cellular Immunology, 252 (1-2). pp. 122-138. ISSN 0008-8749


A major underlying cause for aging of the immune system is the structural and functional atrophy of the thymus, and associated decline in T cell genesis. This loss of naïve T cells reduces adaptive immunity to new stimuli and precipitates a peripheral bias to memory cells against prior antigens. Whilst multiple mechanisms may contribute to this process, the temporal alliance of thymic decline with puberty has implicated a causative role for sex steroids. Accordingly ablation of sex steroids induces profound thymic rejuvenation. Although the thymus retains some, albeit highly limited, function in healthy adults, this is insufficient for resurrecting the T cell pool following cytoablative treatments such as chemo- and radiation-therapy and AIDS. Increased risk of opportunistic infections and cancer relapse or appearance, are a direct consequence. Temporary sex steroid ablation may thus provide a clinically effective means to regenerate the thymus and immune system in immunodeficiency states.

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Online ISSN: 1090-2163

Item type Article
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Biomedical and Health Sciences
Historical > FOR Classification > 1107 Immunology
Keywords ResPubID22584. thymus, aging, thymic involution, sex steroids, gonadectomy, gonads, thymic atrophy, LHRH, immune system, T cell genesis, thymus, hormones
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