Morphometrical characteristics of age-associated changes in the thymus of old male wistar rats
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In order to provide a morphometrical description of the changes in the aged rat thymus and to relate them to apoptotic and proliferative activity of thymocytes, the thymuses from 3- and 18-month-old male Wistar rats and the percentages of bromodeoxyuridine-incorporating and apoptotic cells in cultures of thymocytes were assessed by stereological analysis and flow cytometry, respectively. In old rats the volume of lymphoepithelial thymic tissue is markedly reduced, reflecting a sharp decrease in the total number of thymocytes. A reduction in the proliferative capacity of thymocytes and increase in their susceptibility to apoptosis are, most likely, primarily responsible for a 7-fold reduction in thymic cellularity in old animals. Furthermore, only the volume of cortical compartment was affected by aging, while that of medulla, despite of reduced cellularity, was not significantly altered. The loss of functional tissue in aged thymus is compensated by a substantial increase in the volume... of inter-lobular connective and adipose tissue, so the thymic weight remained unaltered in old rats. These results suggest that thymus of aged Wistar rats exhibits morphological characteristics similar to those found in aged human thymus and thus may serve as an animal model for further investigations of thymus-related changes in immunological aging.
Source:Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series C: Anatomia Histologia Embryologia, 2006, 35, 6, 380-386
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