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Miller, Jacques (Francis Albert Pierre)

thymus function change gland

(1931– ) French–Australian immunologist: discovered function of the thymus gland.

Educated in Sydney and London, Miller worked from 1966 at the Hall Institute, Melbourne. Until his work in 1961, the function of the thymus gland was not known. The gland is in the chest of mammals, close to the heart, and becomes relatively smaller from infancy to adulthood. To discover the function of such an organ, one general method is to remove it from a mature experimental animal and to examine the resulting changes; but in the case of the thymus, no significant change could be observed. Likewise its removal in human adults in cases where it had become cancerous produced no obvious physiological change. Miller pointed to an answer by removing the thymus from 1-day-old mice (which weigh only about a gram). Then, thymectomy produced much change; normal growth failed and death followed in 8–12 weeks. Suggestively, the lymph nodes shrink, the lymphocyte blood count falls and immune responses fail, so that skin grafts from unrelated mice (or even rats) are not rejected. From this basis, later work showed that T-lymphocytes are formed in the fetal thymus and fulfil a critical role in the complex cell-mediated immune response.

Miller, Nicole [next] [back] Miller, Flournoy (1887–1971)

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