Thymus and Reproduction

The thymus plays an important role in the immune system, and it has been suggested that thymic cells and peptides play a role in determining reproductive lifespan in females (Bukovsky and Presl 1979; Rebar 1982; Suh et al. 1985). The relationship of age-associated thymic involution with diminution of ovarian function is supported by the alteration of ovarian function in neonatally thymectomized mice (Nishizuka and Sakakura 1969). In addition, in congenitally athymic (nude) mice, follicular loss is first evident at two months of age and this is specifically due to a reduction in the numbers of primary follicles. The first ovulation is delayed until two and half months of age, compared to the first ovulation in the one and half month old normal mouse females. By four months, an overall reduction in all fractions of the follicle population occurs in nude mice, and ovulation ceases (Lintern Moore and Pantelouris 1975). Interestingly, the absence of the thymus might also be responsible for the lack of hair in nude mice, due to the lack of thymus-derived T cells, which might be required for hair development. Similarly, a baldness more likely develops in aging men, but is less likely in women, probably since the immune system in females works more efficiently and effectively longer than in males (Aspinall 2000).

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