The bacteria that cause leprosy, Mycobacterium leprosyAccording to a recent study carried out by scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, it can become an important component in the healing and regeneration of certain parts of our body.
Animal experiments have revealed the bacteria’s remarkable ability to stimulate the healthy growth of body tissues – a “biological alchemy” that, for example, has led to the nearly doubling of liver size. The researchers also observed that this microbe can transform one type of tissue into another.
These abilities are driven by selfishness because they give the bacteria more material to infect. However, figuring out how they do this could help humans develop new treatments, such as regenerating livers in people waiting for transplants and reversing age-related damage in other parts of the body.
Leprosy can compromise various functions when it affects the nerves, skin and eyes. Throughout history, people suffering from this millennial disease have been marginalized.
Seeking to determine the bacterium’s potential for causing the disease, scientists turned to another disease-prone animal: armadillos.
Experiments in the United States showed that the infection was transmitted to the animal’s liver, where the bacteria hijacked the organ for its own benefit.
“It was completely unexpected,” Professor Anura Rambukana from the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Regenerative Medicine told me.
The results, published in the scientific journal Cell Reports Medicine, show that armadillo livers doubled in size.
The growth was expected to be malignant and possibly cancerous, but detailed analysis showed it to be a healthy, functional process that included normal blood vessels and bile ducts.
“It’s really amazing,” Rambukana says. “How do they do that? There’s no cell therapy that can do that.”
The bacterium that causes leprosy appears to advance the clock of liver development.
Fully developed liver cells are metabolic powerhouses that perform hundreds of functions in the body.
But bacteria Mycobacterium leprosy Cells can be reverted to an earlier state, such as adolescence, before the cells mature and return to adulthood.
By observing the activity of different parts of the DNA, the scientists observed that when the liver was developing, it closely resembled the behavior of a much younger animal or fetus.
But the exact details of how it happens are not known.
Previous research has shown that it is possible for cells to turn back the clock when they regain the ability to become any other type of cell in the body – but this carries the risk of becoming cancerous.
“Microorganisms [qui causent la lèpre] Use alternatives,” says Rambukana. “It’s the safest way, and they take more time to do. It’s a natural process.”
Professor Rambukana says, “We need to use the same bacterial strategy, harnessing the ingenuity of bacteria, to develop new therapies for regeneration and repair.
“This mechanism can be converted to a vaccine every three months, like that”.
However, all of these ideas have yet to be tested.
Darius Videra, a researcher at the University of Reading in the UK, commented: “Overall, the results could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches to treat liver diseases such as cirrhosis.”
“However, since the research was conducted using armadillos as model animals, it is unclear how these promising results may translate to human liver biology.”
“Furthermore, because the bacteria used in this study are pathogens, considerable refinement of the methods will be required before clinical application.”
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