Normal Structure, Function and Histology of the Thymus

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The thymus, a primary lymphoid organ and the initial site for development of T cell immunological function, is morphologically similar across species. It is actually an epithelial organ in which its epithelial cells provide a framework containing T cells as well as smaller numbers of other lymphoid cells. A symbiotic interaction exists between the thymic microinvironment and developing T cells, and the specificity of T cell release into the systemic circulation is under thymic control. The thymic cortex in a young animal is heavily populated by developing T cells along with a smaller proportion of associated epithelial cells. Larger, more mature T cells are found in the medulla where epithelial and other cell types are more abundant. Understanding normal morphological features of the thymus and their perturbations provides a cornerstone to assessing immune system function.

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