Let’s face it, getting older has its advantages like getting wiser, maybe getting richer and having a family of your own, but I hate the fact that our bodies start to fail on us, organ by organ. When I was young, I remember watching Sci-Fi movies and being amazed by how people where “fixed” in no time, even when they had the most dreadful wounds. The modern technology is able to slow down or even reverse the external signs of getting older, but there was not significant advancement in the science of internal organ regeneration – so far. A team of scientists from Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh managed to regenerate a living internal organ for the first time ever, paving the way for future advancements in this area.
The team, led by Clare Blackburn, rebuilt the thymus of mice, an organ that produces crucial immune cells in the body, located in the proximity of the heart. The thymus is responsible for maturing thymocytes into T cells (cells that perform important immune system functions). Naturally, the thymus will diminish with time, and by the time of adulthood it will be reduced to 25-30% of its original size and function. By the time we get older it is just a tenth of the original size. That’s the reason why older people are more susceptible to various diseases.
Using a gene called FOXN1, the team of scientists targeted a natural mechanism that’s responsible for the aging process of the thymus, managing to stimulate and to channel the stem cell differentiation, “instructing” them to rejuvenate the organ to a previous and larger state.
This is an important step for the regenerative medicine, and it could pave the way for a new generation of medical techniques that could prolong our life to a good extent. Clare Blackburn said that before testing this technique on humans, they need more time to see the full extent and implications of the process.
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