Engineering a functional synthetic thymus


  • Prof Clare Blackburn

    University of Edinburgh

  • Prof Graham Anderson

    University of Birmingham

  • Prof Georg Holländer

    University of Oxford

  • Prof Jon Chapman

    University of Oxford

  • Prof Matthias Lutolf

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Project summary

T cells are a type of white blood cell that are required in our immune system to fight infection. The thymus produces a pool of T cells that protect our bodies from infection and cancer but do not attack our bodies to cause autoimmune diseases. The processes through which it does this are complex, and it is not yet possible to make equivalent T-cell pools in the lab. It has recently become possible to use T cells as therapies to control cancer. If we could recreate a functional lab-grown thymus, this would allow us to make T-cell pools and open possibilities for discovering new therapies.  

We want to create a fully functional thymus in the lab, by using stem cell technology together with tissue engineering. Creating  this ‘synthetic thymus’ would open enormous possibilities for basic research and new T-cell therapies.