Fountain Of Youth? Scientists Regenerate Damaged Organ In A Mammal For First Time Ever

Researchers in Britain have successfully treated an organ called the thymus in mice, ostensibly turning back the clock and renewing it with fresh, youthful cells.

As we get older, as do our cells. They divide, split, and become increasingly unreliable, making it harder to accomplish rudimentary tasks, like repairing wear and tear to the body. It's why regenerative medicine—which promotes healing by dialing back your biological clock—is one of today's more exciting arms of research.

We're only at the tip of the iceberg, too. Researchers have already started growing and cultivating new organs—like windpipes—in the laboratory. These are then transplanted into the people who need them. But now, scientists have successfully nurtured the regeneration of an older, damaged organ while it is still inside the mammalian body.

Researchers, led by Clare Blackburn at Edinburgh University in Britain, successfully treated an organ called the thymus in elderly mice, ostensibly turning back the clock and renewing it with fresh, youthful cells. According to the Economist, the team was able to rejuvenate the organ in mice specifically bred to be receptive to a certain protein.

The details are a bit granular, but essentially, by coaxing pluripotent stem cells—which have the miraculous ability to become any other kind of cell needed—scientists were able to artificially engineer the repair of the mice's elderly thymus cells, keeping the organ humming along youthfully. In other words, healing factor is now possible.

[Image: Flickr user Duncan Hull]

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