British scientists have been able to fully restore an organ in a living animal for the first time – a breakthrough which may pave the way for the technique to be used in humans.
The Scottish team have successfully rebuilt the thymus of ‘very old’ mice by reactivating a natural mechanism that gets shut down with age.
The thymus is an organ central to the immune system, found in front of the heart.
The regenerated thymus was not only similar in structure and genetic detail to one in a young mouse, the scientists said, but was also able to function again.
After the regeneration, the treated mice also started to make more T-cells – a type of white blood cell key to fighting infections.
The regenerated thymus was also more than twice the size of the aged organs in the untreated mice.
‘By targeting a single protein, we have been able to almost completely reverse age-related shrinking of the thymus,’ said Clare Blackburn from Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine, who led the research.
‘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.’
The Latest on: Organ regeneration
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The Latest on: Organ regeneration
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