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Thymic Epithelial Cell Culture

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Two dimensional monolayer culture of thymic epithelial cells has been used for more than two decades for evaluation of the nature of these cells. Both cells from infant thymi and from thymi from a variety of laboratory animals have been used. The main reason for the broad interest in culture of these epithelial cells is the documented importance of thymic stromal cells, and among them, especially, epithelial cells in the selection of T-lymphocyte precursors and their differentiation to functionally mature T lymphocytes (1 -4 ). However, differentiation of T-lymphocyte precursors, which is dependent on correct spatial organization of subtypes of epithelial and mesenchymal cells, may be better studied in murine fetal organ cultures or reaggregate cultures (5 6 ), whereas the culture of thymic epithelial cells in 2-dimensional monolayer cultures, as described here, is useful for characterization of the epithelial cells per se , their morphology, subtypes, surface characteristics, secretion, antigen presentation, and direct interaction with T-lymphocyte precursors added to the cultures, as well as for establishment of epithelial cell lines.
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