Stem cells have been used to reconstruct a whole human thymus, an important work for new avenues in transplantation
Researchers reconstructed a human thymus, an essential organ of the immune system, using human stem cells and a bioengineered scaffold. Their work is an important step towards the possibility of constructing artificial thyme that could be used as transplants.
Thyme: what it is
The timo it is a small organ in the chest where T lymphocytes mature, which play a vital role in the immune system. It has a symmetrical shape, similar to a pyramid, and is located behind the breastbone. It can happen that the thymus does not work properly or does not form during it fetal development in the uterus. This can lead to diseases such as severe immunodeficiency orautoimmunity, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy tissue.
Stem cells: a regenerative potential
In their study, published in Nature Communications, the scientists reconstructed the thymus using stem cells taken from patients who had to remove theorgan during surgery. When transplanted into mice, bioengineered thyme were able to support the development of T lymphocytes mature and functional humans. Although i researchers have previously reconstructed other organs or their sections, this is the first time that scientists have successfully reconstructed an entire functioning human thymus. The study is an important step not only for the treatment of severe immune deficiencies, but in general for the development of new techniques for the growth of artificial organs.
Between stem cells and bioengineering scaffolding: the technique used
To rebuild this organ, the researchers took stem cells from timi coming from operated patients. As these cells grew in the laboratory, researcher Asllan Gjinovci developed a new one microvascular approach to remove all cells from rat thymes. In this way, only the scaffold structural that held them. In these facilities, the researchers implanted the stamina cells grown up. The result was extraordinary: in about five days the cells filled the scaffolds, developing an organ similar to the developmental stage of a nine-week-old fetus. Finally, the team implanted these thymes in mice. They thus found out that in over 75% of cases the thymes were able to support the development of human lymphocytes. The researchers’ work is continuing to improve the process and understand how to bring it into clinical transplant practice.
An important Italian contribution
The laboratory of Francis Crick Institute where they conducted most of the experiments useful for this study is headed by Paola Bonfanti. Graduated in Milan, after various experiences abroad, in 2017 she landed at the Crick Institute in London, managing the laboratory. Manages to win a loan since European Research Council and thus arrive at this important result. The first author of the study, a researcher at the English laboratory, is the Italian Sara Campinoti who stated:
Demonstrating that it is possible to build a functioning thymus from human cells is a crucial step towards the growth of thymes that may one day be usable in transplants
Concept reinforced by the words from Roberta Ragazzini, researcher graduated in Bologna, who says:
The fact that we can expand thymic stem cells from human donors into large colonies is very exciting. It allows to increase the process in order to build thymes to human size
Of the 22 authors of the research well 9 are Italian and the Department of Experimental Oncology of the IEO of Milano. A largely Italian combination for a result that could become a forerunner for the development of new options for transplants.
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