Amazingly, researchers have recently discovered that a tissue-destroying disease can somehow regenerate mammalian livers.
Leprosy, one of the oldest and most chronic human diseases, is caused by two parasitic bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. These bacteria damage the skin, nerves, and other tissues during an infection.
Unlike the stigma surrounding it, leprosy is not highly contagious. It is spread through repeated and excessive contact with the saliva of an infected person; however, 95 percent of those infected with the bacteria do not develop the disease, and it can be treated with a cocktail of modern drugs.
The bacterium occurs naturally in armadillos (Dasypus nineteen), and by studying how the virus interacts with its host, researchers discovered that the virus has an unexpected ability to steal and regenerate cells.
So University of Edinburgh medical researcher Samuel Hess and his colleagues infected 45 armadillos with it M. leprosy13 of them rejected the disease, and then compared the infected livers with a group of 12 animals that did not have the disease.
Surprisingly, the infected armadillos grew their livers – their organs grew larger. The organs remained functional with all the right types of liver fat in all the right places, including the blood and bile ducts.
“If we can learn how bacteria grow in the liver as a functional organ without causing adverse effects in living organisms, we can translate that knowledge to find safe treatments to rejuvenate aging livers and restore damaged tissue,” he said. he explains University of Edinburgh biologist Anura Rambukkana.
It seems that during the history of evolution, bacteria have learned to change and increase the number of cells that suit them best inside the body of the armadillo where they live.
Although the facts are unknown, M. leprosy it seems to regenerate the main cells of the liver, the hepatocytes, by turning them into stem-like cells, allowing the entire liver tissue to grow properly from them.
Members of the research team it has already been shown Leprosy can do something similar to nerve cells called Schwann cells, regenerating them into a small cell that can produce many different types of cells.
In a recent study of armadillos, this resulted in a healthy liver with no signs of cancer, aging, fibrosis, or inflammation.
“Thus the search for regenerative medicine to be a ‘larger organ’ is not merely speculative but has biological implications,” Hess and colleagues said. write it down.
Although people’s livers can grow slowly – the only internal organ that can do so – even with the repeated injuries of chronic liver disease, they accumulate damage over time, and stop. millions of people succumbing to chronic liver disease every year.
Understanding how leprosy germs reprogram the liver may one day give us the power to harness this ability again.
“Although it was unexpected and unacceptable, this changed life [within body] model can improve our understanding of recycling mechanisms,” the team concluded in their paper.
This study was published in Cell Reports Medicine.