Monday, April 21, 2014

Living Organ Regenerated for First Time: Thymus Rebuilt in Mice

News Brief by Sam Kessel

A team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh has shown that a live organ can be regenerated for the first time in mice. The research group was able to regenerate the thymus, an organ that sits near the heart and is responsible for maintaining the immune system. Typically, the function of the thymus deteriorates with age, resulting in a weakened defense against infection in older animals. This is the reason why the elderly are more likely to get infections like the flu and take longer to recover.

When an older mouse with a completely dysfunctional thymus was treated with the protein FOXN1, its thymus returned to the functioning levels of a much younger mouse. FOXN1 is a protein produced by the cells of the thymus in younger animals and based on these preliminary results, it may be the key to treating immune system disorders in humans. This simple treatment would not involve any surgery and would significantly improve the lives of the elderly and those suffering from weakened immune systems. Further testing needs to determine how to tightly control the process and ensure that there are minimal side effects. Nonetheless, this is a promising first step for immune system therapies.

University of Edinburgh. (2014, April 8). Living organ regenerated for first time: Thymus rebuilt in mice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from
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