Thymus transplantation for complete DiGeorge syndrome: European experience

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Abstract

Background:

Thymus transplantation is a promising strategy for the treatment of athymic complete DiGeorge syndrome (cDGS).

Methods:

Twelve patients with cDGS underwent transplantation with allogeneic cultured thymus.

Objective:

We sought to confirm and extend the results previously obtained in a single center.

Results:

Two patients died of pre-existing viral infections without having thymopoiesis, and 1 late death occurred from autoimmune thrombocytopenia. One infant had septic shock shortly after transplantation, resulting in graft loss and the need for a second transplant. Evidence of thymopoiesis developed from 5 to 6 months after transplantation in 10 patients. Median circulating naive CD4 counts were 44 × 106/L (range, 11–440 × 106/L) and 200 × 106/L (range, 5–310 × 106/L) at 12 and 24 months after transplantation and T-cell receptor excision circles were 2,238/106 T cells (range, 320–8,807/106 T cells) and 4,184/106 T cells (range, 1,582–24,596/106 T cells). Counts did not usually reach normal levels for age, but patients were able to clear pre-existing infections and those acquired later. At a median of 49 months (range, 22–80 months), 8 have ceased prophylactic antimicrobials, and 5 have ceased immunoglobulin replacement. Histologic confirmation of thymopoiesis was seen in 7 of 11 patients undergoing biopsy of transplanted tissue, including 5 showing full maturation through to the terminal stage of Hassall body formation. Autoimmune regulator expression was also demonstrated. Autoimmune complications were seen in 7 of 12 patients. In 2 patients early transient autoimmune hemolysis settled after treatment and did not recur. The other 5 experienced ongoing autoimmune problems, including thyroiditis (3), hemolysis (1), thrombocytopenia (4), and neutropenia (1).

Conclusions:

This study confirms the previous reports that thymus transplantation can reconstitute T cells in patients with cDGS but with frequent autoimmune complications in survivors.

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