Leprosy bacteria can regrow organs in a controlled manner

The bacteria of leprosy are considered one of the greatest scourges of humanity, because they brought infected people exclusion from the social community for a long time. However, it is now clear that they also contain a very positive potential.

Scientists have discovered that leprosy pathogens sometimes stimulate the internal organs of their hosts to grow healthily. This is actually a pretty selfish ability, as it’s all about getting more tissue to use as habitat for your own species. However, the mechanism behind it has generated a lot of interest among scientists, the BBC reported.

Because while pathological defects otherwise lead to uncontrolled growth in the form of tumors, here the growth is very ordered and controlled. This could ultimately offer the possibility of natural growth of missing tissue from internal organs. If this ability could be replicated, it would be possible in the future to regenerate or regrow organs that have been damaged by, say, an accident or cancer surgery.

Fund in armadillo

However, scientists discovered this ability of the leprosy pathogen in an armadillo. This is the only living thing other than humans that can contract this disease. “It was completely unexpected,” said Anura Rambukkana of the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Regenerative Medicine. The results, published in Cell Reports Medicine, show that the liver almost doubled in size.

One would expect such growths to be cancerous – but detailed analysis showed that the tissue was healthy and functional – with the usual arrangement of blood vessels and bile ducts. To do this, the leprosy bacteria revert the liver cells to a more or less juvenile stage in which organ growth is not yet complete. However, how exactly they do it is still a mystery. But scientists are trying to find out.

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