More than 150 years after the discovery of Hassalls corpuscles in 1849, the function of these round blobs of cells in the human thymus gland has now been explained. The answer, in turn, ends an intense hunt for the origin of regulatory T cells that has been under way for years.
Reporting in the Aug. 25 issue of Nature, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that Hassalls corpuscles produce chemical signals that instruct dendritic cells in the thymus to induce development of these regulatory T cells - the critically important immune system cells that patrol the body looking for "bad T cells that can produce autoimmune disease.
"These mysterious little structures in the thymus are responsible for producing the T cell policemen that our bodies depend so heavily on," says the studys lead author, Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Immunology. "It is a very smart system that evolved during evolution to efficiently keep the immune system in check."
Nancy Jensen | EurekAlert!
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