Image-guided intrathymic injection of multipotent stem cells supports lifelong T-cell immunity and facilitates targeted immunotherapy

Andrea Z Tuckett, Raymond H Thornton, Yusuke Shono, Odette M Smith, Emily R Levy, Fabiana M Kreines, M. R. M. van den Brink, Johannes L Zakrzewski
T-cell deficiency related to disease, medical treatment, or aging represents a major clinical challenge and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality in cancer and bone marrow transplantation recipients. This study describes several innovative and clinically relevant strategies to manipulate thymic function based on an interventional radiology technique for intrathymic injection of cells or drugs. We show that intrathymic injection of multipotent t hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells into irradiated syngeneic or allogeneic young or aged recipients resulted in efficient and long-lasting generation of functional donor T-cells. Persistence of intrathymic donor cells was associated with intrathymic presence of cells resembling long-term hematopoietic stem cells, suggesting a self-renewal capacity of intrathymically injected cells. Furthermore, our approach enabled the induction of long-term antigen-specific T-cell-mediated antitumor immunity following intrathymic injection of progenitor cells harboring a transgenic T-cell receptor gene.The intrathymic injection of interleukin-7 prior to irradiation conferred radioprotection. In addition, thymopoiesis of aged mice improved with a single intrathymic administration of low-dose keratinocyte growth factor, an effect that was sustained even in the setting of radiation-induced injury. Taken together, we established a preclinical framework for the development of novel clinical protocols to establish lifelong antigen-specific T-cell immunity.

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