Man has long been searching for the fountain of youth in an effort to keep physical vigor. While this may be viewed as a manifestation of vanity, the ability to extend youth has crucial implications even in this modern age.

In this era of modern medicine, finding what could be the key to lasting youth may mean finding the cure for many of the illnesses that have afflicted and caused the demise of man. Although the fountain of youth will remain a mere mythical representation of man's quest for immortality, scientists are actually making progress in the field of regenerative medicine that may lead to extended youth.

In a new scientific breakthrough, scientists in the United Kingdom were able to regenerate old animal organs, a milestone that could pave way to organ restorations that would have a number of potential uses to man.

In the study "Regeneration of the aged thymus by a single transcription factor" published in the journal Development April 8, a team of scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. were able to regenerate the thymus of old mice by increasing the level of a protein called FOXN1 which naturally deteriorates with age.

The researchers noted that the regenerated organ had structure and genes expressed similar to those found in young mice. They also observed that the function of the regenerated organ was restored and the mice that received the treatment started to produce more T-cells, which are known to play an role in protecting the body from infection, albeit it wasn't clear if their immune system was strengthened.

"By targeting a single protein, we have been able to almost completely reverse age-related shrinking of the thymus," said study researcher Clare Blackburn from the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. "Our results suggest that targeting the same pathway in humans may improve thymus function and therefore boost immunity in elderly patients, or those with a suppressed immune system."

The researchers, however, pointed out that while their discovery could potentially lead to human therapies, they still needed to carry out more work before doing a test on humans.

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