Ectopic organogenesis in lymph node - Eric Lagasse
The shortage of organs is today a major health crisis. We are living longer and as we aged, our organs tend to fail more. Currently, there are not enough organs to go around and, in fact, in the last ten years the number of patients requiring organs has doubled when at the same time, the actual number of transplant has barely gone up.
One possible solution for this public health crisis is to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory for their eventual application in patients. While this approach has revealed encouraging results, major challenges for growing organs, like blood supply and vascularization of the tissues, have hampered the effort.
My lab has tested the concept that certain locations in the body may be amenable to in vivo tissue and organ regeneration. We hypothesize that the lymph node (LN) in particular offers a rich environment that is well suited for this task. Our rational was based on several observations. The LN function is an in vivo bioreactor to promote lymphocyte survival and expansion in response to an antigen. However, the LN can also serve as an inviting host to more than just lymphocytes. After a series of genetic changes, selected cancer cells will often migrate away from the primary tumor and colonize in the LN to form a new tumor mass. Why is the LN environment so accommodating to lymphocytes as well as to a variety of tumor cells? And could LNs provide a suitable environment to maintain survival and expansion of normal cells other than lymphocytes?
Using three different organs, liver, thymus and pancreas, we provide the first report and demonstrated the proof-of-concept that the LN provides a hospitable environment for normal epithelial cell engraftment and function. Our approach reveals an important technical methodology to consider for future ectopic tissue and organ regeneration.