Experiments on birds with the bursal tissue removed have proved crucial in revealing the function of the bursa. Surgical bursectomy in the newly hatched period is not sufficient to prevent migration of B cells into the periphery because the cellular outflow starts during the embryonic period. The same holds true if the surgical bursectomy is carried out during late embryogenesis. More complete results have been obtained when the surgical bursectomy has been combined with in ovo treatment with antibodies against the heavy chain of IgM. Surgical removal of the bursal anlage can also be performed before the bursa is populated by prebursal stem cells. However, even in such animals, operated on days 2-5 of incubation, some plasma cells and antibodies with extremely limited antibody repertoire are found, indicating restricted extrabursal B cell maturation.

Other methods of bursectomy include treatment with testosterone or cyclophosphamide. Testosterone given in ovo also destroys the epithelial compartment of the bursa, whereas cyclophosphamide leaves it intact, allowing experimental repopulation by prebursal or bursal stem cells.

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