JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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T-cell repopulation and thymic volume in HIV-1-infected adult patients after highly active antiretroviral therapy.

Blood 2002 May 16
The origin of T cells after highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) is now under discussion. The possibility of renewed lymphopoiesis in aged thymuses is still controversial. In this work we combine the analysis of naïve T cells, T-cell receptor excision circles (TRECs), and computed tomography scanning of thymic tissue to further assess whether the thymus is involved in immune reconstitution. Fifteen antiretroviral-naïve HIV-1-infected patients were evaluated during 48 weeks of HAART. At baseline, significant correlation was present among age and both thymic volume and TRECs, and between naïve T cells and TRECs. After starting HAART, there was a significant increase at week 12 in naïve CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, TRECs, and thymic volume. The initial net increases in naïve T cells and TREC counts were significantly correlated. Changes in thymic volume and TRECs were also indirectly related; splitting the population into 2 groups of high and low baseline TREC levels, only the group with low TREC levels had significant increases in both TRECs and thymic volume. Thus, the increase in thymic volume might be functional, in response to depleted TREC levels. Taken together, our data strongly suggest a thymic role in immune reconstitution, at least in patients with depleted baseline TREC levels. (Blood. 2002;99:3702-3706)

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