The Francis Crick Institute
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Current and future therapeutic approaches for thymic stromal cell defects.

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-04-14, 09:11 authored by Alexandra Y Kreins, Paola Bonfanti, E Graham Davies
Inborn errors of thymic stromal cell development and function lead to impaired T-cell development resulting in a susceptibility to opportunistic infections and autoimmunity. In their most severe form, congenital athymia, these disorders are life-threatening if left untreated. Athymia is rare and is typically associated with complete DiGeorge syndrome, which has multiple genetic and environmental etiologies. It is also found in rare cases of T-cell lymphopenia due to Nude SCID and Otofaciocervical Syndrome type 2, or in the context of genetically undefined defects. This group of disorders cannot be corrected by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, but upon timely recognition as thymic defects, can successfully be treated by thymus transplantation using cultured postnatal thymic tissue with the generation of naïve T-cells showing a diverse repertoire. Mortality after this treatment usually occurs before immune reconstitution and is mainly associated with infections most often acquired pre-transplantation. In this review, we will discuss the current approaches to the diagnosis and management of thymic stromal cell defects, in particular those resulting in athymia. We will discuss the impact of the expanding implementation of newborn screening for T-cell lymphopenia, in combination with next generation sequencing, as well as the role of novel diagnostic tools distinguishing between hematopoietic and thymic stromal cell defects in facilitating the early consideration for thymus transplantation of an increasing number of patients and disorders. Immune reconstitution after the current treatment is usually incomplete with relatively common inflammatory and autoimmune complications, emphasizing the importance for improving strategies for thymus replacement therapy by optimizing the current use of postnatal thymus tissue and developing new approaches using engineered thymus tissue.