The thymus is located in the chest behind the lungsThymiStem is the European Consortium for Development of Stem Cell-Based Therapy for Thymic Regeneration. We are working towards stem cell therapies that can boost the immune system by repairing the thymus, an essential organ of the immune system.

The thymus is the site in the body where T cells are made. T cells are crucial cells in the immune system, needed to mount effective immune responses. They are also important for coordinating our immune responses, so we make appropriate responses for different types of disease and infection.

Nine research teams from seven countries have joined forces in ThymiStem. Our members are based in the UK, Spain, Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the USA. We are a mix of stem cell biologists, immunologists, genetic engineers, tissue engineers and cell banking experts. Together, we have the skills to make progress towards new medical treatments.

Our project began on 1 October 2013 and will run for four years. We will test whether thymus stem cells can be grown in the lab and used to make a fully working thymus for transplantation. We will then investigate how to produce these cells in sufficient quantities and at high enough quality that they could, in the future, be transferred into patients.

Why do we need new treatments for the thymus?

New ways to repair or regenerate the thymus could benefit many older people and those who have received a bone marrow transplant. The thymus is the first organ to degenerate in normal healthy ageing. This means we make fewer new T cells as we age, which is why older people are often more susceptible to infections such as flu. Damage to the thymus is also one of the major risks to life for patients who have undergone a bone marrow transplant, for example to treat blood cancer. Read more about our work.

Communicating our research

Thymistem is active in communicating with the members of the public and others about its research. We support the EU public engagement project EuroStemCell to bring up to date stem cell and regenerative medicine information to non-specialists.