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.
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...
Patients who need a bone marrow transplant and children who are born without a functioning thymus could all benefit.
Ways of boosting the thymus could also help elderly people. The organ shrinks with age and leads to a weaker immune system.
However, there are a number of obstacles to overcome before this research moves from animal studies to hospital therapies.
The current technique uses embryos. This means the developing thymus would not be a tissue match for the patient.
Researchers also need to be sure that the transplant cells do not pose a cancer risk by growing uncontrollably.
Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, from the National Institute for Medical Research, said: "This appears to be an excellent study. "This is an important achievement both for demonstrating how to make an organ, albeit a relatively simple one, and because of the critical role of the thymus in developing a proper functioning immune system.
originally posted by: weirdguy
Well this sure is good to ear.
Hopefully 3D printing technology will catch up soon so animals won't have to be used in such a manner. Unless we can eat them afterwards, but of course only if they don't contain human dna because that would just be weird.