Partners collaborate on breakthrough immunology research

illustration of the cardiovascular system

A collaboration between Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the University of Birmingham – both founding members of BHP – will help researchers understand the importance of the thymus in T-cell function and adaptive immunity.

Professor Graham Anderson of the Institute of Immunology & Immunotherapy will receive matched thymus and blood samples from children undergoing corrective cardiac surgery, under the care of Mr Nigel Drury a Clinician Scientist and Consultant in Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

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 the 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 the 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 BHP scientists and clinicians, and help maintain both the fundamental and translational immunological research performed at the University of Birmingham.