Nov 13, 2014

Fully functional immune organ grown in mice from lab-created cells

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Fibroblasts transformed into induced thymic epithelial cells (iTEC)  in vitro (left, iTEC in green).  iTEC transplanted onto the mouse kidney form an organised and functional mini-thymus (right, kidney cells in pink, thymus cells in dark blue).

Scientists have for the first time grown a complex, fully functional organ from scratch in a living animal by transplanting cells that were originally created in a laboratory. The advance could in future aid the development of ‘lab-grown’ replacement organs.

Researchers from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh, took cells called fibroblasts from a mouse embryo and converted them directly into a completely unrelated type of cell — specialised thymus cells — using a technique called ‘reprogramming’. When mixed with other thymus cell types and transplanted into mice, these cells formed a replacement organ that had the same structure, complexity and function as a healthy native adult thymus. The reprogrammed cells were also capable of producing T cells — a type of white blood cell important for fighting infection — in the lab.

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