Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Living Organ Regenerated for the First Time: Thymus Rebuilt in Mice

This article from the Science Daily talks about how scientists from the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.The team of researchers were able to rebuilt the thymus which is the organ in our body close to our heart that makes immune cells. The thymus shuts down as it ages, hence the chances of the elderly getting sick more easily. The main purpose of the thymus is to create white blood cells called T cells, which helps fight off infections. this function was restored during the treatment and the regenerated organ was observed to have a similar structure to that of a young mouse, but its not sure yet whether or not the immune system of the mice was improved.
The researchers were able to conduct this regeneration by targeting a protein that is produced by the thymus called FOXN1. FOXN1 regulates how important genes are switched on, so the researchers increased the levels of FOXN1 and instructed the cells to rebuild the organ. This research could pave the way for new therapies that can help people with damaged immune systems or people with genetic conditions that can affect the thymus. More specifically it could help patients with DiGeorge syndrome which is a genetic condition that cases underdevelopment of the thymus. Clare Blackburn, Professor of Tissue Stem Cell Biology, says that these results were helpful in paving the way for further research on specific ways to  regenerate organs that will help improve the immune system. She also said that before they can test his on humans they need to perform more research to make sure that the procedure can be tightly controlled. Dr. Rob Bckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine says that the main goal of regenerative medicine is to harness the body's own repair mechanisms  and manipulate it to treat diseases.

Jefi Varghese (group C)


  1. Utilizing the bodies natural defenses is a difficult but potentially rewarding process. Its relatively rare that a single protein can cause such a profound change, so it's really interesting to hear about. I wonder if the same treatment will work in a genetically damaged thymus, since pathways for gene activation can be incredibly complex. Any progress is good progress though as the need for modification at a genetic level is increasing every day.

    -Stephen O'Brien

  2. This is a great finding. So from this example, FOXN1 gives the instruction of rebuilding thymus. Lets say there is at least one specific protein regenerating its targeting organ, do you know if there is other research studying to other organ regenerating? Researchers should also be aware of the chance of these specific proteins leading to uncontrollable cell growth (cancerous tumors).

    Posted by Yim Hui

  3. What a fantastic article! The fact that they can produce this by manipulating a single proteins absolutely amazing. It makes sense in theory that this could happen because the code for a healthy thymus is still in the DNA of the Thymus; it just has to be used in the right way. However, for them to actually make it happen is wonderful! Science is doing things that even 10 years ago would have been thought to be impossible.

  4. Regenerative medicine is huge in research right now, and it's no wonder why. I can't wait to see more research on this subject and maybe even the possibility of human testing. Do you know of any other parts of the body that scientists are looking at?

    Posted by: Lindsey Janof

  5. Good article, I'm interested in how widely this gene is expressed. If it isn't specific to the thalamus the potential uses for this research could be huge.

    Posted by Tim Daly