An article describing the creation of a working organ made from laboratory cells was published recently via The Guardian.
According to the report, British scientists produced a working thymus, a vital immune system “nerve centre” located near the heart.
This is the first time scientists have been able to build a complete and functional organ from reprogrammed lab cells in a living animal.
The method uses connective tissue cells from a mouse embryo to be converted directly into a completely different cell strain by flipping a genetic “switch” in their DNA.
Scientists believe that the technique, so far only tested on mice, could provide replacement organs for people with weakened immune systems.
“The ability to grow replacement organs from cells in the lab is one of the ‘holy grails’ in regenerative medicine,” Professor Clare Blackburn, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, who led the team of scientists, told The Guardian.
“By directly reprogramming cells we’ve managed to produce an artificial cell type that, when transplanted, can form a fully organized and functional organ. This is an important first step towards the goal of generating a clinically useful artificial thymus in the lab,” he added.