Researchers have had success growing organs in controlled lab environments, but repeating that feat inside a complex, messy animal body? That’s more than a little tricky. However, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have managed that daunting feat for the first time. They’ve grown thymus glands inside lab mice by “reprogramming” the genes in tissue-regenerating cells and partnering those with support cells. The team didn’t have to use scaffolds or other “cheats” to trigger the growth; it just injected the cells and waited. There weren’t even any obvious limitations. The organs were full size , and they were just as efficient at producing virus-fighting T-cells as the real deal.
A whole functional organ has been grown from scratch inside an animal for the first time, say researchers in Scotland. A group of cells developed into a thymus – a critical part of the immune system – when transplanted into mice. The findings, published in Nature Cell Biology, could pave the way to alternatives to organ transplantation. Experts said the research was promising, but still years away from human therapies. The thymus is found near the heart and produces a component of the immune system, called T-cells, which fight infection. Scientists at the Medical Research Council centre for regenerative medicine at the University of Edinburgh started with cells from a mouse embryo. These cells were genetically “reprogrammed” and started to transform into a type of cell found in the thymus. These cells were genetically “reprogrammed” and started to transform into a type of cell found in the thymus. These were mixed with other support-role cells and placed inside mice. Once inside, the bunch of cells developed into a functional thymus. It is similar to a feat last year, when lab-grown human brains reached the same level of development as a nine-week-old foetus. The thymus is a much simpler organ and in these experiments became fully functional.