Researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe that leprosy bacteria may hold the key to safely mending and renewing the body.
The amazing capacity of the bacteria to almost double the size of livers by promoting healthy growth has been discovered through animal trials.
By doing so, the bacteria have more tissue to infect, which is a deceptively selfish act.
However, the scientists assert that figuring out how they accomplish it might result in new age-defying treatments.
BBC News reported that, throughout history, those infected have been shunned.
But the bacterium that causes it, Mycobacterium leprae, has other, unusual properties, including the ability to perform “biological alchemy”, converting one type of bodily tissue into another, which are fascinating scientists.
So the researchers turned to another animals that catches the disease – armadillos
The experiments, which were performed in the US, showed 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,” Prof Anura Rambukkana, from the University of Edinburgh’s centre for regenerative medicine, told me.
The results, published in Cell Reports Medicine, showed the liver nearly doubled in size.
You might expect such growth to be defective or even cancerous – but detailed analysis showed it was both healthy and functional, complete with the usual array of blood vessels and bile ducts.
“It is kind of mind-blowing,” Prof Rambukkana said. “How do they do that? There is no cell therapy that can do that.”
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