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April 3, 2002

The Thymus Gland is a small gland in the upper chest. It weighs 1/3 - 1/2 half ounce at birth, and reaches its peak weight of about 17 ounces at puberty. Thereafter, under the influence of many factors, including adrenal and sex hormones, the active thymus gland cells begin to die off, with much of the thymus gland tissue being gradually replaced by fat and connective tissue.

Much of the healthy thymus gland structure typically atrophies by age 20, and the decline accelerates throughout life thereafter. As immunologist Keith Kelly notes: "The involution (shrinkage) of the thymus gland is one of the cardinal bio-markers of aging." In the past 40 years, science has discovered that the thymus gland is the key regulator of immunity.

Collectively, thymus gland hormones have been shown, in human, animal and in vitro studies, to have a broad range of action, well beyond merely maturing and differentiating T cells.

Thymus gland hormones can prevent the tissue wasting that occurs with thymus gland removal or severe thymus gland atrophy, and promote healthy weight gain in disease states- such as AIDS - where catabolic body wasting is typical.

Thymus gland hormones can reduce autoimmune reactions, clinically and experimentally, such as occur in rheumatoid arthritis.

Thymus gland hormones prevent the bone marrow injury and subsequent reduction in white and red blood cell production, frequently produced by X-ray or chemotherapy cancer treatment.

As cellular physiologist Dennis Fahy has noted: "If you restore immune function, your ability to make DNA, to have normal cell division, to have normal insulin sensitivity, to have normal thyroid levels and other things, such as normal population of certain molecules in the brain that change with age, all these things are restored by an improvement in the immune system."

Since thymus gland hormones are secreted by the very thymus gland cells that "shrivel up" and waste away due to aging, stress, disease, radiation and malnutrition, etc., the drop in thymus gland hormone activity with aging should hardly be surprising.

Although it is little known, even to most alternative/anti-aging medicine devotees, there is a large body of published, human clinical research supporting the use of oral thymus gland extracts. They have been used in a broad range of conditions, ranging from cancer treatment, to rheumatoid arthritis, to various allergy and asthma conditions, to recurrent respiratory infections and hepatitis. (1)

These studies have generally shown thymus gland extracts to be extremely non-toxic and side effect free, with few contraindications for use.

The main block to the acceptance of the efficacy of oral thymus gland extracts is the erroneous yet widespread belief that all proteins and peptides taken orally, as food or supplements, are 100% digested to individual amino acids before absorption, from the intestine into the body.

If this were true, then indeed orally administered thymus gland peptide hormone extracts would be broken down completely during digestion, becoming merely very expensive, low dose amino acid supplements, with no more immune activity than (for example) a few hundred milligrams of ground beef protein. Yet it has been known since the 1970's that significant quantities of various proteins, such as gliadin from wheat, milk casein, Ferritin, hemoglobin and milk immunoglobins routinely survive digestion and enter the body- and even the brain -intact.

The pioneering research of W.A. Hemmings (2) and Ziovdrov and colleagues (3) had repeatedly demonstrated this in a wide variety of experiments using many different proteins, by the late 1970's.

In the 1997 textbook Oxidology (4), Bradford and Allen even explain the mechanism of how this occurs. It is based on a cellular process called "pinocytosis."

Thymus References

(1) N. Kouttab et al. "Thymomodulin: Biological Properties and Clinical Applications."
      Med. Oncol. And Tumor Pharmacother. 6, 5-9 1989.
(2) W. Hemmings. "Dietary Protein Reaches the Brain."
      Orthomol. Psychiatry, 6, 309-16, 1977.
(3) C. Ziovdrou et al. "Opiod Peptides Derived from Food Proteins."
      J. Biol. Chem., 254, 2446-49, 1979.
(4) R. Bradford & H. Allen. "Oxidology."
      Chula Vista, CA: R.W. Bradford Foundation, 1997.


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