For cardiac transplantation in infants, T cells are depleted and the thymus is removed. These manipulations should cause profound defects in the T cell compartment. To test this concept, 20 subjects who underwent cardiac transplantation in infancy and healthy age-matched subjects were studied. The number of T cells in the blood was nearly normal in all subjects 1-10 years after surgery. However, newly generated T cells were undetectable in 10 recipients and 10-fold less than controls in 10, suggesting absence of thymic function. TCRβ chain diversity, measured by a novel technique, was ∼100-fold lower than controls. T cell function, deduced from levels of human herpesvirus 7 and response to hepatitis B immunization, were notably impaired. Yet cardiac transplant recipients were generally free of opportunistic infections. Our findings demonstrate a novel approach to measuring lymphocyte diversity and suggest that understanding how these subjects resist infection could yield important insights into immune fitness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy