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Rat pancreas grows in mouse

8 September 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

An ultimate goal of regenerative medicine is the generation of organs derived from a patient's stem cells. In new research scientists were able to provide a pancreas deficient mouse with a fully functioning pancreas derived from rat stem cells.

The research was in two stages. Firstly the team created mouse-rat chimeras, the first time this has been achieved. To do this, mouse stem cells were injected into a rat blastocyst (very early embryo). This gave rise to a rat-like chimera. Conversely, rat stem cells injected into a mouse blastocyst gave rise to a mouse-like chimera.

Next, the team injected rat stem cells into mouse blastocysts from a pancreas deficient strain of mice. In the resulting chimera, the ‘mouse' had a fully functioning pancreas made up entirely of rat cells.

The scientists have proved, at least in principle, that donor cells of one species can rescue a defect in organ development in a different species.

However, the legal and ethical barriers to producing human-animal chimeras makes it unlikely this will become a route to organ replacement in humans.