A major advance from researchers in the department of genetics:
A team of scientists including researchers from the University of Georgia have grown a fully functional organ from scratch in a living animal for the first time.
The researchers created a thymus, a butterfly-shaped gland and vital component of the human immune system. Located beneath the breastbone in the upper chest, the thymus is responsible for producing T-lymphocytes, or T-cells, which help organize and lead the body’s fighting forces against threats like bacteria, viruses and even cancerous cells.
“We were all surprised by how well this works,” said Nancy Manley, professor of genetics in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the paper describing their finding in Nature Cell Biology.
“The general idea in science is that to make cells change their fate, you need to reprogram first to a stem-cell like state and then coax them to change into what you want,” said Manley, who is also director of UGA’s Developmental Biology Alliance. “But we jump-started the process just by expressing a single gene that was sufficient to initiate the entire process and orchestrate organ development.”
Congratulations to the research team on this fantastic news, a very big step along the way to clinical trials and treatments which, while they might be still far out in the future, seem to have just become significantly closer.