An important goal in the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes by pancreatic islet transplantation is the development of strategies that allow permanent survival of islet allografts without continuous host immunosuppression. In this study, we demonstrate that inoculation of allogeneic bone marrow into the thymus of adult rats treated with a single dose of anti-lymphocyte serum induces an unresponsive state that permits survival of subsequent pancreatic islet allografts transplanted to an extrathymic site. This effect is donor specific, cannot be reproduced by systemic administration of bone marrow, and is associated with persistence of chimeric cells in the thymus of the recipient. In addition, lymph node cells from long-term recipients of intrathymic bone marrow display markedly reduced proliferative responses to donor alloantigens in mixed lymphocyte culture. Interaction of maturing thymocytes with foreign alloantigens may produce the unresponsiveness. This model offers a potential approach for establishing donor-specific allograft acceptance in adult recipients.

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