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Leprosy bacteria may hold the secret to safely repairing and regenerating the body

Biological alchemy by leprosy bacteria-converts one type of bodily tissue into another


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Animal experiments have uncovered leprosy bacteria's remarkable ability to almost double the size of livers by stimulating healthy growth.

The armadillo is the only other known host for the leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae.

The bacterium has the ability to perform "biological alchemy", converting one type of bodily tissue into another.

The infection heads to the armoured animals' livers, where it performed a controlled hijacking of the organ to reprogram it for its own purpose.

"It was totally unexpected," Anura Rambukkana, researcher. "The liver nearly doubled in size."

Darius Widera, of the University of Reading, said: "Overall, the results could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of liver diseases such as cirrhosis."

"As the bacteria used in this study are disease-causing, substantial refinement ... clinical translation," he added.

The study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh and the results were published in Cell Reports Medicine.

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Cell Reports

Journal publishing research papers across a broad range of disciplines within the life sciences

Darius Widera

Associate Professor, University of Reading

The University of Edinburgh

Public research university for UK and international students

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Regenerative Medicine
Leprosy bacteria may hold the secret to safely repairing and regenerating the body