Monday, August 25, 2014

Thymus time

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have grown from scratch, for the first time, a whole functional organ inside an animal. The organ was a thymus (IMAGE ABOVE), a critical part of the immune system found near the heart; the animal was a laboratory mouse; and "scratch" was genetically reprogrammed cells mixed with other support-role cells. Inside the animal, the bunch of cells developed into a functional thymus that produced the T-cells necessary for a healthy immune system. Obstacles to be overcome before this could be used as a human therapy include tissue-matching and ensuring that transplant cells do not pose a cancer risk by growing uncontrollably. Human blood vessels, windpipes and bladders have been grown, but in the lab on a scaffold seeded with a patient's own cells and then implanted. About this latest achievement, team member Clare Blackburn declares, "This is a very exciting advance and it's also very tantalizing in terms of the wider field of regenerative medicine."

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