Hassall's corpuscles

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Hassall's corpuscles
Thymic corpuscle.jpg
Micrograph of a thymic corpuscle. H&E stain.
Gray's p.1274

Hassall's corpuscles (or thymic corpuscles (bodies)) are structures found in the medulla of the human thymus, formed from eosinophilic type VI epithelial reticular cells arranged concentrically. Newer studies indicate that Hassall's corpuscles differentiate from medullary thymic epithelial cells after they lost Autoimmune regulator (Aire) expression.[1] They are named for Arthur Hill Hassall, who discovered them in 1846.[2][3]

The function of Hassall's corpuscles is currently unclear, and the absence of this structure in the murine thymus has restricted mechanistic dissection. It is known that Hassall's corpuscles are a potent source of the cytokine TSLP. In vitro, TSLP directs the maturation of dendritic cells, and increases the ability of dendritic cells to convert naive thymocytes to a Foxp3+ regulatory T cell lineage.[4][5] It is unknown if this is the physiological function of Hassall's corpuscles in vivo.

Beloveskin and others perform a complex research of systemic organization of Hassall’s corpuscles in the thymus of first year children. There has been determined that main cells forming Hassall’s corpuscles are two types of cells that differ from each other by origin, texture, function, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural features. We revealed that composition and amount of accessory cells in Hassall’s corpuscles depends on their stage of development. It has been established that the main systemic factor of Hassall’s corpuscles organization is the process of synthesis, mobilization and transduction of tissue-specific autoantigens for immune tolerance induction.[6]

In the past decade, Hassall's corpuscles were again in the focus of pathologists and clinicians, as the researchers found tissue-specific self-antigens in corpuscles and revealed their role in the pathogenesis of diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroiditis, Goodpasture's syndrome and others. They also discovered that Hassall's corpuscles synthesize chemokines affecting different cell populations in thymic medulla . Despite this, the information on the relationship between Hassall's corpuscles with other cell types of thymic medulla (dendritic, myoid, neuroendocrine cells, thymocytes, macrophages, eosinophils, etc.) remains insufficient and often contradictory . Mechanisms of these relationships and their functional significance are still unclear . The lack of such data does not allow forming a holistic, systemic view of the differentiation processes in the thymus.

Hassall's corpuscles vary in size with diameters from 20 to more than 100μm, and tend to grow larger with age.[7]


  1. ^ Xiaoping Wang et al., 2012: Post-Aire maturation of thymic medullary epithelial cells involves selective expression of keratinocyte-specific autoantigens, Front. Immunol., 05 March 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2012.00019, PMID: 22448160
  2. ^ Louis Kater: A Note on Hassall’s Corpuscles. Contemporary Topics in Immunobiology Volume 2, 1973, pp. 101-109.
  3. ^ Hassall, A. H., 1846. Microscopic Anatomy of the Human Body in Health and Disease, Highly, London.
  4. ^ * Watanabe N, Wang Y, Lee H, Ito T, Wang Y, Cao W, Liu Y (2005). "Hassall's corpuscles instruct dendritic cells to induce CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells in human thymus.". Nature 436 (7054): 1181–5. doi:10.1038/nature03886. PMID 16121185. 
  5. ^ "Old mystery solved, revealing origin of regulatory T cells that 'police' and protect the body"
  6. ^ Beloveshkin, Andrei (2014). Systemic organization of Hassall’s corpuscles. Medisont. ISBN 978-985-7085-22-4. 
  7. ^ Geneser, Finn (1999). Histologi. Munksgaard Danmark. ISBN 87-628-0137-6. 

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