Leprosy hijacks body’s cells and reprograms them as stem cells

According to a study published in the journal Cell today, the leprosy mycobacterium can reprogram cells, turning adult cells into stem-like cells that are able to infiltrate the body’s muscle and nervous system. This mechanism explains one of the great mysteries of leprosy — how it spreads throughout the body–and could pave the way for early intervention to stop the disease in its tracks. Lead researcher Anura Rambukkana, a regeneration biologist at the he University of Edinburgh, UK, tells Nature, “This is a very sophisticated mechanism — it seems that the bacterium knows the mechanistic interaction of the Schwann cell better than we do.”

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