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The thymus gland, which science despises, may save your life

The thymus gland, which science despises, may save your life


Health diary editor

For decades, scientists considered the thymus to be a spent organ.
[Imagem: The Harvard Gazette]

The importance of the thymus gland

Modern medicine has long considered the thymus gland to be a depleted organ in adults. He is so despised that few people can tell where his thymus gland is or what it does.

But new research conducted by doctors and researchers at Harvard University (USA) has shown that the small organ in the chest, about the size of a walnut, actually plays a vital role in immune health as we age, especially in preventing cancer.

When the team compared data on patients who had their thymus removed (thymusectomy) with data on patients who kept their thymus gland, they found that patients with thymusectomy had a nearly three-fold increased risk of dying from a variety of causes, including double risk times. . Higher risk of cancer and increased risk of autoimmune diseases.

“The scale of the risk was something we never expected,” said Dr. David Skadden. “It appears that the main reason the thymus has such an effect on public health is as a form of protection against the development of cancer.”

What a fear

The thymus gland is the fastest aging organ in the human body. They are most active in producing T cells during early childhood, and begin to atrophy in adipose tissue in adulthood.

Because of this, scientists assumed, for many decades, that they serve a limited purpose in adulthood. The thymus is usually removed because of problems with the organ itself, such as thymus cancer, or during other heart and thoracic surgeries, because it is located in front of the heart and is often in the path of the surgeon.

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However, in recent years, scientists have begun to suspect that the thymus gland plays an important role in our health as we age, by continuing to produce T cells that contribute to the diversity of the total number of T cells in the body. For example, thymus transplantation today treats immunocompromised children.

This is reinforced by this new study. “This study demonstrates the importance of the thymus gland in maintaining healthy adults,” Skadden concluded.

Check with the scientific article:

condition: Health consequences of thymus removal in adults
Authors: Cameron A. Koshish, Brody H. Foy, PhD, David B. Sykes, Karen Gustafson, David T. Skadn
Publication: The New England Journal of Medicine
doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2302892

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