Another New Player in the Thymus Regeneration Space

It seems there is ever more enthusiasm for regenerating the thymus these days, which is welcome. A number of companies are out there pursuing widely divergent scientific programs to achieve this goal, at varying stages of progress towards the clinic. At some point, someone will figure out an optimal path past the various challenges presented by the location and biology of the thymus to produce a large regrowth of this organ in older individuals. The company noted here, Thymmune Therapeutics, is taking the cell therapy approach, which I think to be one of the more viable options, given that a few cell types have been shown to home to the thymus. Still, they are not initially focused on aging, which will likely slow any application to aging of the specific approach that they choose to pursue.

The thymus gland is a small organ tucked beneath the breastbone. Its primary function is to produce T cells, which help the body ward off infections and diseases and mount an immune response to vaccines. The thymus grows weaker with age and is less capable of producing naïve T cells, leading to immune dysfunction and various chronic conditions.

Thymmune Therapeutics debuted recently with $7 million in seed financing. Thymmune aims to reverse thymic atrophy by combining machine learning with cellular engineering to mass produce thymic cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. With this approach, the start-up intends to create off-the-shelf cell therapies that can restore immune function minimally invasively.

The small team will first test their platform against athymia, a rare and congenital immune disorder wherein an infant is born without a thymus. Babies with athymia cannot produce T cells and are at a high risk of infection. Left untreated, athymic infants typically die by age two or three. The company is also looking at testing its platform to treat several autoimmune diseases and address organ transplant tolerance. In the future, Thymmune's platform could also boost immune function and address the biology of aging.


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