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The spleen is an organ that filters the blood and is responsible for generating blood-borne immune responses. It is also an organ with a remarkable capacity to regenerate. Techniques for splenic auto-transplantation have emerged to take advantage of this characteristic and rebuild spleen tissue in individuals undergoing splenectomy. While this procedure has been performed for decades, the underlying mechanisms controlling spleen regeneration have remained elusive. Insights into secondary lymphoid organogenesis and the roles of stromal organiser cells and lymphotoxin signalling in lymph node development have helped reveal similar requirements for spleen regeneration. These factors are now considered in the regulation of embryonic and postnatal spleen formation, and in the establishment of mature white pulp and marginal zone compartments which are essential for spleen-mediated immunity. A greater understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms which control spleen development will assist in the design of more precise and efficient tissue grafting methods for spleen regeneration on demand. Regeneration of organs which harbour functional white pulp tissue will also offer novel opportunities for effective immunotherapy against cancer as well as infectious diseases.
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