We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. To learn more, click here. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies. Cookie Policy.

Features Partner Sites Information LinkXpress
Sign In
Advertise with Us

Download Mobile App

Chest CT Scans Can Reveal Immune System Ageing

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 16 Oct 2023
Print article
Image: Immune system ageing can be revealed by CT scan, according to a new study (Photo courtesy of Linköping University)
Image: Immune system ageing can be revealed by CT scan, according to a new study (Photo courtesy of Linköping University)

The thymus, a small organ situated in the upper chest, might be more crucial to adult immune health than previously thought. Over time, this glandular tissue in the thymus becomes fatty, a transformation that varies depending on factors such as age, sex, and lifestyle. New findings suggest that the state of the thymus can serve as an indicator of how well the immune system is aging.

Long considered essential for the development of the immune system in children, the thymus tends to shrink and fill with fat after puberty, a phenomenon known as fatty degeneration. Because of this, it was commonly believed that the thymus holds little significance in adulthood. This notion has been questioned by limited studies, mostly animal research, hinting that an active thymus in adults might offer benefits, like stronger resistance to infections and cancer. However, few studies have directly examined the adult thymus until now. Researchers at Linköping University (Linköping, Sweden) took a closer look at the thymus using chest CT scans from over 1,000 Swedish individuals aged 50 to 64. These participants were part of the expansive SCAPIS study, which also includes thorough health assessments and lifestyle evaluations, such as diet and exercise habits. Additionally, the team looked at blood samples to analyze immune cell levels. They found considerable differences in the thymus' state among individuals. Those with a fattier thymus displayed diminished T-cell regeneration. Interestingly, complete fatty degeneration of the thymus was detected in six out of ten participants, occurring more frequently in men and those with abdominal obesity.

The research provides fresh insights by associating the appearance of the thymus with lifestyle choices, overall health, and the immune system. In the immune system's development, the thymus serves as a training ground for T-cells (the "T" signifying "thymus"). Here, T-cells learn how to identify foreign elements like bacteria and viruses, and also how to avoid attacking the body's own cells, preventing autoimmune diseases. However, more investigation is needed to fully understand the health implications of thymus appearance and immune system aging. The research team is now gearing up for further studies involving all 5,000 SCAPIS participants in Linköping to explore whether the thymus' state as shown in CT scans can predict future disease risks.

“We doctors can assess the appearance of the thymus from largely all chest CT scans, but we tend to not see this as very important. But now it turns out that the appearance of the thymus can actually provide a lot of valuable information that we could benefit from and learn more about,” said Mårten Sandstedt, MD, PhD, at Linköping University.

“This association with T-cell regeneration is interesting. It indicates that what we see in CT scans is not only an image, it actually also reflects the functionality of the thymus. You can’t do anything about your age and your sex, but lifestyle-related factors can be influenced. It might be possible to influence immune system aging,” added Lena Jonasson, professor at Linköping University.

Related Links:
Linköping University 

Gold Supplier
Ultrasound System
Gold Supplier
Conductive Gel
Wireless Flat Panel Detector
Ferromagnetic Hand-Held Detector
FerrAlert Target Scanner

Print article



view channel
Image: Intelligent NR provides high-quality diagnostic images containing significantly less grainy noise (Photo courtesy of Canon)

AI-Driven DR System Produces Higher Quality Images While Limiting Radiation Doses in Pediatric Patients

Ionizing radiation is a fundamental element in producing diagnostic X-rays, yet it's widely acknowledged for its cancer risk potential. Digital projection radiography, a vital imaging modality, accounts... Read more


view channel
Image: The researchers are using MRI-guided radiation therapy that pairs daily MRIs with radiation treatment (Photo courtesy of Sylvester)

AI Technique Automatically Traces Tumors in Large MRI Datasets to Guide Real-time Glioblastoma Treatment

Treating glioblastoma, a prevalent and aggressive brain cancer, involves the use of radiation therapy guided by CT imaging. While this method is effective in targeting radiation, it doesn't provide real-time... Read more


view channel
Image: The new ultrasound patch can measure how full the bladder is (Photo courtesy of MIT)

Ultrasound Patch Designed to Monitor Bladder and Kidney Health Could Enable Earlier Cancer Diagnosis

Bladder dysfunction and related health issues affect millions worldwide. Monitoring bladder volume is crucial for assessing kidney health. Traditionally, this requires a visit to a medical facility and... Read more

Nuclear Medicine

view channel
Image: A novel PET radiotracer facilitates early, noninvasive detection of IBD (Photo courtesy of Karmanos)

New PET Radiotracer Aids Early, Noninvasive Detection of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract affecting roughly seven million individuals globally.... Read more

Imaging IT

view channel
Image: The new Medical Imaging Suite makes healthcare imaging data more accessible, interoperable and useful (Photo courtesy of Google Cloud)

New Google Cloud Medical Imaging Suite Makes Imaging Healthcare Data More Accessible

Medical imaging is a critical tool used to diagnose patients, and there are billions of medical images scanned globally each year. Imaging data accounts for about 90% of all healthcare data1 and, until... Read more

Industry News

view channel
Image: Attendees can discover innovative products and technology in the RSNA 2023 Technical Exhibits (Photo courtesy of RSNA)

RSNA 2023 Technical Exhibits to Offer Innovations in AI, 3D Printing and More

The 109th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA, Oak Brook, IL, USA) to be held in Chicago, Nov. 26 to 30 is all set to offer a vast array of medical... Read more
Copyright © 2000-2023 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.