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Lab-grown immunity

September 8, 2014


While regenerative medicine has leveraged medical technology to grow various tissues and smaller organs, scientists at the University of Edinburgh have managed to grow a fully functional thymus in mice by transplanting precursor cells made from scratch under lab conditions. Thymus is an organ of the immune system in which T-cells, a type of white blood cells that help fight infection, mature.

The study, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, used fibroblast cells, extracted from a mouse embryo, which were later converted into unrelated thymus cells through a technique called `reprogramming'. These cells were later added to a mixture containing other thymus cell types and transplanted into a mouse where they formed a replacement organ that was observed to have the same functionality as a naturally developed thymus.

 

While the study is far from human trials, Clare Blackburn, who led the research at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine of the Medical Research Council, based at the university, hopes for such treatments to be alternatives for those born with a defective or absent thymus, or suffering from diseases that impair its functioning.

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