A thymic cell study programme for developing an ambitious transplant strategy

31 May 2018

This programme is led by Dr. Matthieu Giraud, a specialist in immunology, genetics and bioinformatics. Having spent a number of years working in foreign research laboratories, notably at Harvard and the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, USA, he returned to France in 2011 where he established his research team. At that time, his focus was the study of gene expression in the immune system. Attracted by the energy of Nantes, in September 2017, he joined the Institute of Transplantation, Urology and Nephrology (ITUN) and the Center for Research in Transplantation and Immunology (CRTI), which brings together researchers and clinicians with unique and complementary expertise to study the normal and pathological functioning of the immune system.

Supported by the IHU-CESTI[1], the aim of this programme is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of thymic cells; mechanisms that guarantee the development of cells involved in our body’s defence system, as well as maintaining the latter’s integrity. Dr. Matthieu Giraud is seeking to characterise the molecular factors involved in the diversity of gene expression necessary for the healthy functioning of thymic cells. This project is centred around the latest epigenetic and transcriptomics technologies and concepts and is examining cells on an individual basis.

The project’s ultimate goal is to regenerate a functioning thymus in the laboratory using cells taken from patients and differentiated using techniques derived from stem cell research. The thymus rebuilt in this manner could then be transplanted into these patients, with no risk of rejection, and would ideally enable an effective and non-autoreactive immune system to be re-established.

By joining the ITUN and its teams, Matthieu Giraud has gained access to a wide range of expertise in terms of fundamental and clinical research and is therefore able to develop an ambitious transplant strategy, the ultimate aim of which is to benefit patients affected by autoimmune disorders or an impaired immune system.

What’s more, these skills lie wholly within the scope of the outstanding research conducted as part of the health programme of the I-Site[2] NExT[3], which is supported by the University of Nantes, the École Centrale de Nantes, Nantes University Hospital and the INSERM[4], the aim of which is to accelerate the research and education dynamic, thereby making Nantes an internationally recognised centre of academic excellence.


[1] IHU-CESTI = Nantes University Hospital-European Centre of Transplantation and Immunotherapy Sciences

[2] I-Site = I-SITE, part of the Investment For The Future Programme (PIA 2).

[3] NExT = Nantes Excellence Trajectory

[4] INSERM = French National Institute for Health and Medical Research