Professor Graham Anderson has established a collaboration with Mr Nigel Drury, a Clinician Scientist and Consultant in Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at Birmingham Children's Hospital, to receive matched thymus and blood samples from children undergoing corrective cardiac surgery.
Thymus tissue is frequently removed during corrective cardiac surgery to allow the surgeon access to the heart. With help from the Human Biomaterials Resource Centre, Professor Anderson and his team can collect this tissue and use it in their research programmes that set out to understand the importance of the thymus in T-cell function and adaptive immunity.
This new endeavour will allow Professor Anderson and his team to directly compare knowledge of thymus development and function provided by their in vivo models with these same processes in humans. Gaining a better understanding of the similarities and differences will give several benefits.
Firstly, the team will be able to modify and improve in vivo models in an informed way so that they more closely mimic the human immune system. Secondly, direct analysis of primary human thymus tissues will allow Professor Anderson's group to establish methods to measure thymus function in both quantitative and qualitative ways. This will be an important step forward in a number of contexts, including the efficacy of thymus-dependent immune reconstitution in patients receiving bone marrow transplants for cancer treatment.
Performing this work in Birmingham will exploit exciting collaborative connections between scientists and clinicians, and help maintain both the fundamental and translational immunological research performed at the University of Birmingham.