Living organ regenerated for first time

April 8, 2014
Credit: Wikipedia

Medical procedures that can rejuvenate human body parts have moved a step closer with the completion of a new study.

A team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh has succeeded in regenerating a living organ for the first time.

The team rebuilt the - an organ in the body located next to the heart that produces important immune cells.

Immune repair

The advance could pave the way for new therapies for people with damaged immune systems and genetic conditions that affect thymus development.

The team reactivated a natural mechanism that shuts down with age to rejuvenate the thymus in very old mice. After treatment, the regenerated organ had a similar structure to that found in a young mouse.

Function restored

The function of the thymus was also restored and the mice began making more called T cells, which are important for fighting off infection. However, it is not yet clear whether the of the mice was improved.

The study was led by researchers from the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

The researchers targeted a protein produced by cells of the thymus - called FOXN1 - which helps to control how important genes are switched on. By increasing levels of FOXN1, the team instructed stem cell-like cells to rebuild the organ.

"Our results suggest that targeting the same pathway in humans may improve thymus function and therefore boost immunity in elderly patients, or those with a suppressed immune system. However, before we test this in humans we need to carry out more work to make sure the process can be tightly controlled." said Clare Blackburn, Professor of Tissue Stem Cell Biology, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Treatment hope

The thymus deteriorates with age, which is why older people are often more susceptible to infections such as flu.

The discovery could also offer hope to patients with DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic condition that causes the thymus to not develop properly.

"One of the key goals in is harnessing the body's own repair mechanisms and manipulating these in a controlled way to treat disease. This interesting study suggests that organ regeneration in a mammal can be directed by manipulation of a single protein, which is likely to have broad implications for other areas of regenerative biology." said Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine, Medical Research Council

The study is published today in the journal Development.

Explore further: Transplanting thymus cells into patients may repair and restore the immune system

Related Stories

Transplanting thymus cells into patients may repair and restore the immune system

February 27, 2014
The thymus plays a central role in the development of our immune system by producing important immune cells. However, this crucial organ deteriorates with age and is also vulnerable to harm from transplant surgery. An ageing ...

Artificial thymus tissue enables maturation of immune cells

March 29, 2012
The thymus plays a key role in the body's immune response. It is here where the T lymphocytes or T cells, a major type of immune defence cells, mature. Different types of T cells, designated to perform specific tasks, arise ...

Stem-cell-based strategy boosts immune system in mice

May 16, 2013
Raising hopes for cell-based therapies, UC San Francisco researchers have created the first functioning human thymus tissue from embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. The researchers showed that, in mice, the tissue can ...

Origin of unusual glands in the body discovered

January 23, 2014
The thymus gland is a critical component of the human immune system that is responsible for the development of T-lymphocytes, or T-cells, which help organize and lead the body's fighting forces against harmful organisms like ...

Recommended for you

Female mouse embryos actively remove male reproductive systems

August 17, 2017
A protein called COUP-TFII determines whether a mouse embryo develops a male reproductive tract, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health and their colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. The ...

Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer

August 17, 2017
A mutation that helps make cells immortal is critical to the development of a tumor, but new research at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that becoming immortal is a more complicated process than originally ...

New Pathology Atlas maps genes in cancer to accelerate progress in personalized medicine

August 17, 2017
A new Pathology Atlas is launched today with an analysis of all human genes in all major cancers showing the consequence of their corresponding protein levels for overall patient survival. The difference in expression patterns ...

New technique overcomes genetic cause of infertility

August 17, 2017
Scientists have created healthy offspring from genetically infertile male mice, offering a potential new approach to tackling a common genetic cause of human infertility.

Are stem cells the link between bacteria and cancer?

August 17, 2017
Gastric carcinoma is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths, primarily because most patients present at an advanced stage of the disease. The main cause of this cancer is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, ...

Inhibiting a protein found to reduce progression of Alzheimer's and ALS in mice

August 17, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with Genetech Inc. and universities in Hamburg and San Francisco has found that inhibiting the creation of a protein leads to a reduction in the progression of Alzheimer's disease ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Osiris1
1.7 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2014
Looking for new therapies to regenerate or improve other organs too. Hope the porn industry does not get wind of this.......heh......heh...
Scottingham
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2014
Age is just another disease. We're part of the first generation of humans where the prospect of being able to live forever isn't outright baloney and very well might be around the corner. Not sure anybody would want to though...
TheKnowItAll
3 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2014
I certainly won't say no to it when it comes if it does in my timeline.
eric_in_chicago
not rated yet Apr 09, 2014
I have been saying for the last ten years, "this is one crappy time to die from cancer when cures are just around the corner!"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.