Editors' ChoiceCELL THERAPY

There’s Node Place Like Home

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 155, pp. 155ec182
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005076

Restoring organ function—and thus avoiding the hopelessly long transplant list—is a goal of regenerative medicine. To provide engineered tissues and organs, many approaches have focused on rebuilding the organ at its normal location in the body. Now, Komori and co-workers suggest a new “home” for these transplanted tissues: the lymph nodes.

In both normal immune responses and in cancer, the lymph node provides an uncommonly receptive environment for cell recruitment and division. The authors thus wondered whether it would also provide a receptive site for the transplantation and engraftment of other cells or tissues able to restore organ functions lost to damage or disease. To test their hypothesis in mouse models of organ failure or insufficiency, they injected individual lymph nodes with a variety of different cell types, including liver cells, thymus cells, and pancreatic cells. In each case, critical organ functions were restored. The liver cells were able to rescue mice from lethal liver failure; the thymus cells reconstituted immune systems capable of rejecting allogeneic skin grafts or xenogeneic tumor cells; and the pancreatic cells reestablished insulin-mediated glucose control in diabetic mice. With these three diverse disease models, they illustrated the general potential for use of lymph nodes as in vivo bioreactors to treat a range of lost organ functions by establishing functioning replacement tissues.

The authors note that strategies to create new tissues at locations far away from diseased organs, at “ectopic” sites, have been investigated for some time. Such approaches are attractive because they place newly introduced cells or tissues far away from the potentially damaging disease processes that caused the original organ failure. Now, lymph nodes will be receiving particular attention as sites for such functional cellular transplantation. Clinical translation may be facilitated in part by the accessibility of lymph nodes, existing radiographic techniques for precisely directing needles into nodes (e.g., during biopsies), and the now-appreciated ability of lymph nodes to accommodate functional cell growth.

J. Komori et al., The mouse lymph node as an ectopic transplantation site for multiple tissues. Nat. Biotechnol., published online 23 September 2012 (10.1038/nbt.2379). [Abstract]

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