Is there a way of growing and regenerating a human liver?

Updated - November 26, 2022 09:13 pm IST

Published - November 26, 2022 07:50 pm IST

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest and most persistent diseases but the bacteria that causes it may also have the surprising ability to grow and regenerate a vital organ. Scientists have discovered that parasites associated with leprosy can reprogramme cells to increase the size of a liver in adult animals without causing damage, scarring or tumours, as per a release. The findings (Cell Reports Medicine) suggest the possibility of adapting this natural process to renew ageing livers and increase health span — the length of time living disease-free — in humans.

The scientists found that the infected animals developed enlarged — yet healthy and unharmed — livers with the same vital components, such as blood vessels, bile ducts and functional units known as lobules, as the uninfected and resistant armadillos.

The team believes the bacteria ‘hijacked’ the inherent regenerative ability of the liver to increase the organ’s size and, therefore, to provide it with more cells within which to increase.

They also discovered several indicators that the main kinds of liver cells — known as hepatocytes — had reached a “rejuvenated” state in the infected armadillos.

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