News

Thymus twice as nice for mice

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12:04pm, March 7, 2006

Researchers have long assumed that a mouse has only a single thymus. This organ, located directly over the heart, generates immune system components called T cells that protect the body from many pathogens. However, new research has turned up a second thymus, located in the neck.

While generating mutant mice for an unrelated study, Hans-Reimer Rodewald of the University of Ulm in Germany and his colleagues noticed that some of the altered animals had no thymus. However, the mice could still produce T cells, a job that only the thymus performs.

Searching for the T cells' source, Rodewald's team examined the animals' entire bodies. Eventually, they focused on an organ in the neck that looked like a lymph node. Unlike other lymph nodes, this organ showed activity in several genes previously known to function only in the thymus.

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