Leprosy is one of the oldest human diseases in the world and is associated with a severe social stigma.
However, a new study has found that the bacteria that causes this most persistent infectious disease may help rejuvenate, regenerate, and grow one of the human body’s most vital organs – “the liver”.
This exciting discovery could lead to renewing aging levers and regrowing damaged livers, reducing the need for liver transplants. Currently, a liver transplant is the only option for patients with end-stage scarred livers, but liver transplants can be risky. This discovery could also allow scientists to regrow livers damaged by alcohol misuse, hepatitis infection, or obesity.
This is the finding of the study conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh.
Reprogramming aging or scarred liver cells
Researchers discovered that Mycobacterium leprae (ML), the bacteria that causes leprosy, can reprogram the cells of livers in adult armadillos. As a result, there was an increase in the size of the liver without damage, scarring, or tumor generation.
Anura Rambukkana, professor and lead author from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Scotland said “If we can identify how bacteria grow the liver as a functional organ without causing adverse effects in living animals, we may be able to translate that knowledge to develop safer therapeutic interventions to rejuvenate aging livers and to regenerate damaged tissues.”