Armadillos, leprosy & liver disease


The bacteria responsible for leprosy can actually help regenerate diseased livers, a UK study in armadillos has found.


Armadillos are natural hosts of the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria that causes leprosy – which mainly affects the nerves and skin – and when researchers at the University of Edinburgh infected them with the parasite, the animals developed enlarged (but healthy) livers.


The team think this is due to a ‘reprogramming’ of the liver cells, which in future might allow damaged livers to be regrown, although it is not known if this finding could apply to humans.


Professor Anura Rambukkana, at Edinburgh, 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 damaged tissues.”


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