Regenerative medicine researchers at the University of Edinburgh have successfully regenerated a living organ in a mammal — the thymus of elderly mice, to be specific — by manipulating a single protein (FOXN1). Although scientists have already built organs using stem cells, this is the first time an organ has been regenerated in a living mammal.
Elderly mice induced to have higher FOXN1 levels regrew thymus cells. After treatment with the protein, their thymi roughly doubled in size. It should be noted these were genetically-modified mice and more research is needed to see how this treatment could safely work on people.
Humans also have a thymus, and it’s usually the first organ to deteriorate as we age. The thymus assists with the maturation of white blood cells. It shrinks over time, making older people more susceptible to infections.
Triggering a person to grow healthy thymus cells not only boosts the immune system, but could also treat genetic conditions like DiGeorge syndrome. Not to be confused with Geordi La Forge syndrome, which makes sufferers compulsively tear apart air filters to make neato sunglasses. Obviously, we are taking this news very seriously. Much science. So breakthrough. Wow.