Three groups of 10 veal calves were treated, respectively, with 5 mg of dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate administered intramuscularly on days 0 and 7 (group A); 0·4 mg/day of dexamethasone-21-phosphate administered orally for 20 days (group B); or left untreated as controls (group C). Two animals from each group were slaughtered on day 3, 7, 14, 32 and 52. The size and weight of the thymus decreased progressively in both treated groups until day 32. On day 14, in comparison with the controls, there was a mean reduction of 76 per cent in the thymus weight of group A and 35 per cent in group B. On day 32, the reductions were 13 per cent in group A and 50 per cent in group B, but the thymus weight of both groups had recovered completely by day 52. Dexamethasone-induced changes in thymus weight associated with lymphoid depletion and fat replacement, and there were clear correlations between these changes and apoptosis of thymocytes.
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