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    From the NAL Site:

    Major Breakthrough in Immunology Research
    Key points
    Immune system stem cells discovered
    Ability to grow new thymus facilitated
    Supplements GnRH analogue use
    Norwood’s research partners at the Monash University laboratory of Associate Professor
    Richard Boyd have made a further important breakthrough in their immunology research
    programme involving the thymus – a critical element of the human body immune system.
    Professor Boyd’s research group has now discovered, using mice, a small
    population of epithelial stem cells that can be used to generate a new, complete, and
    functional thymus.
    The research results have been published today by the prestigious international
    journal ‘Nature Immunology’ ( and are the subject of a
    separate announcement by Monash University.
    The thymus is a small organ that is critical in generating many vital cells of the immune
    system including ‘infection fighting’ T cells. In some people, the thymus does not work
    properly due to ageing, attack by viruses, chemotherapy or genetic abnormalities. When
    this happens, the body becomes susceptible to infection with the possibility that death may
    The human thymus shrinks from the size of approximately two small apples in children to
    that of approximately a pea in adults with a corresponding reduction in its capacity to
    generate T cells.
    Work being conducted by Associate Professor Richard Boyd’s group at Monash University
    had previously demonstrated that the adult thymus could be regrown, using a class of
    currently marketed drugs -- the GnRH analogue molecules.
    This work has been the basis for the discussions already initiated by Norwood with selected
    potential pharmaceutical partners for commercial development.
    The importance of this further advance is that it raises the possibility, for those adults who
    do not have any remaining thymic tissue or who have a defective thymus (due to disease,
    age, radiation or prior drugs), that it may be feasible to create an entirely new and
    functional organ.

    The discovery - a major scientific and medical breakthrough - is a most important and
    exciting expansion of the Norwood Immunology project. Coupled with the ability to use the
    current GnRH analogue drugs there is now the potential opportunity to create a new
    reservoir of T cells for treatment of additional disease states and therefore a wider patient
    While medical research of this nature is inevitably long term, much work has already been
    completed and the discovery is a step toward development of a possible cure/therapy for a
    number of auto-immune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes or in immuno-deficiency
    situations where T cells are depleted, such as in the treatment of many cancers or during
    organ transplantation.
    “A major question in immunology has been how to build a thymus”, Associate Professor
    Boyd said. “There are two major cell types to the thymus: lymphocytes and the epithelial. It
    has been known for about 30 years that haemopoetic stem cells lead to the lymphocytes
    but, until now, we have not known which cells lead to the creation of the epithelium”.
    The thymus epithelium is vital in the immune response because it converts haemopoetic
    stem cells to T cells and then assists in the ability of T cells to recognise foreign invaders
    and also stops T cells from attacking body tissues. If there is a defect in the thymus then
    there is a defect in the T cells and a greater predisposition to disease.
    “The discovery of thymic epithelial stem cells is extremely exciting for us and has taken 15
    years of dedicated research. So far, these cells have been found only in mice. Our next
    task is to find where they are in humans. This work has now started in earnest”, Associate
    Professor Boyd said.
    For Norwood, the opportunities flowing from its sponsored research and licensing
    arrangements with Monash University, and the associated Intellectual Property, have now
    been significantly expanded.
    Norwood is collaborating with several internationally recognised medical research
    institutions in Australia and North America and is in the process of commercialising medical
    technologies for the delivery of drugs and the restoration of the human immune system.
    To find out more about the company, visit
    For further information, please contact:
    Peter Hansen
    Chairman & CEO
    (61 3) 9782 7333
    Bernie Romanin
    Director of Marketing & Communications
    (61 3) 9782 7333

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