A new study suggests that leprosy, one of the world’s oldest and most enduring diseases, may have a surprising ability to stimulate liver growth and regeneration.
Scientists have found that the parasites associated with the disease can reprogram cells to increase the size of the liver in adult animals without causing damage, scarring, or tumors.
The findings suggest that this natural process can be adapted to regenerate the aging liver and extend lifespan in humans.
Study finds leprosy can regenerate the liver https://t.co/PxRiNETzfP
– Independent (@Independent) November 15, 2022
Experts say it may also help repair damaged livers, reducing the need for transplants. Currently, transplantation is the only option for people with end-stage liver scarring.
Professor Anura Rambukkana, lead author from the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “If we can determine how bacteria grow in the liver as a functional organ without causing harmful effects in living animals, we can apply this knowledge to develop safer therapeutic interventions. aimed at the regeneration of the aging liver” and the regeneration of damaged tissues.
Leprosy is one of in the world These are the oldest and most persistent diseases, but the bacteria that cause it may also have amazing ability for the growth and regeneration of a vital organ in a new study from @crm_edinburgh. https://t.co/UJskHA2jeM
– University of Edinburgh (@EdinburghUni) November 15, 2022
Previous research has promoted regrowth in mouse livers by creating cells using an invasive technique that often results in scarring and tumor growth.
To overcome these harmful side effects, the Edinburgh researchers relied on their previous discovery about the ability of the leprosy-causing bacterium Mycobacterium leprae to partially reprogram cells.
Working with the US Department of Health and Human Services in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the team infected Mycobacterium leprae in 57 animals, natural hosts for the leprosy bacterium, and compared the livers of those animals with those of those who were not infected and those found to be infected. resistant to infection.
They found that infected animals developed enlarged livers – but healthy, uninfected ones – with the same vital components, such as blood vessels and bile ducts, as uninfected, infection-resistant armadillos.
The researchers believe that the bacteria took over the latent regenerative capacity of the liver to increase the size of the organ and, in turn, provide it with more cells to grow inside.
They also found several indications that the main types of liver cells known as hepatocytes have reached a regenerated state in affected animals.
The researchers hope the discovery, published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, could help develop treatments for aging and liver damage in humans.
Dr Xania Stamataki, Associate Professor at the Center for Liver and Gastroenterology Research at the University of Birmingham, said: “This is an interesting and unusual study as it shows liver growth in the absence of liver damage. This study is an innovative example where we can use microbes as tools to understand biology.”
Dr Darius Vidira, Associate Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Reading, said: “Overall, the results could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches to treat liver diseases such as cirrhosis. done using armadillos as a model animal, it is not clear whether and how these promising results can be applied to human liver biology. In addition, since the bacteria used in this study are pathogenic, significant improvement in methods is required before clinical translation. .”