The causative agent of leprosy reprogram infected cells

The bacteria that cause leprosy (leprosy), proved to be outstanding experts in the field of stem cells: they are easy to carry out what the scientists out abyss of time and effort. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh (UK) found that "prokaznye" mycobacteria may draw mature cells in an undifferentiated, stem condition and reprogram it to turn into another cell type.

One of the first objectives of the agent of leprosy are Schwann cells — helper cells of nervous tissue that form the myelin sheath around the axons of peripheral nerve fibers. The researchers took Schwann cells of mice and infected them with leprosy bacteria. Bacteria turned off the genes that work in mature cells, and returned them to an embryonic state. (It must be said that the Schwann cells themselves can perform this procedure — for example, when you need to restore nerve fibers after injury.)

The infected mouse Schwann cell (green), which came to the muscle fibers (red) (photo of the authors.)

Why "mischief" (in all senses) bacteria to turn infected cells in the stem? Here is why: undifferentiated cell acquires freedom of movement, the old place is no specialization is not needed and can go where he wants. Converted into stem cell state wander through the body — and the bacteria with them. In other words, the causative agent of leprosy using them as transportation, getting to the new territories. If this gets psevdostvolovaya cell, such as muscle, it can be integrated into the fabric, and with it will settle here and bacteria. Ability to fit into the new tissue is very important, without it and the cage, and the bacteria in it so would have worn, homelessness, through the body. It is also curious that bacteria compels cells secrete chemokines — proteins that attract immune cells that also uses bacteria as carriers.

What a tool used with Mycobacterium leprae, the researchers do not yet know. But they are convinced that it is not the exclusive property of leprosy other infectious agents may have the same talent. After all, for any bacteria important to how to navigate the more mobile host's body. A separate question is whether these are capable of molecular biological experiments bacteria provoke cancer, as an undifferentiated cell that is out of place — it is a potential ancestor of the tumor.

And, of course, scientists hope that the bacteria will help them better understand how to convert differentiated cells into stem cells and back. And so what are the pros of this can get the medicine, you can not tell.

The study is published in the journal Cell.

Prepared according to the University of Edinburgh.

Category: Science

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