In a process that could transform organ transplantation, scientists in Japan and the U.S. have reportedly cured mice of diabetes by transplanting mouse cells grown in rats. The study has been published in the journal Nature. Quartz reports: To achieve this feat, researchers injected mouse pluripotent stem cells into a rat embryo. As the name suggests, these pluripotent stem cells are able to transform themselves into all types of cells. The mouse cells intermingled with rat cells, and created a chimera whose organs and tissues were almost all created from a mix of mouse and rat cells. Crucially, however, they had modified the rat to not produce pancreatic cells. They achieved this by knocking out a gene called Pdx1. The upshot was that the pancreas in the chimera was almost completely made of mouse cells. When the rat-mouse chimeras became adults, the researchers removed the animals’ pancreases and from them, isolated endocrine islets, which contain B-cells that produce insulin. The B-cells were then transplanted to diabetic mice that had lost all their native B-cells. The mice that received the transplant were put on mild immunosuppressant drugs. However, the scientists found they only needed to administer the drugs for five days after transplantation. Surprisingly, the few rat cells that came along during the transplant (mostly in the blood vessels in the islets) had been destroyed and replaced by the mouse’s own cells. The B-cells in mice that got the transplants functioned just as they would in a healthy mouse for more than a year, which was the complete observation period. These lab mice only live for two to three years, which makes a one-year observation fairly long. The research opens up the door for growing human organs inside, say, a pig, using the patient’s own stem cells and then transplanting the organ when it’s mature and ready.
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