Navigation Links
Bacteria's hidden skill could pave way for stem cell treatments

A discovery about the way in which bugs spread throughout the body could help to develop stem cell treatments.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that bacteria are able to change the make-up of supporting cells within the nerve system, called Schwann cells, so that they take on the properties of stem cells.

Because stem cells can develop into any of the different cell types in the body including liver and brain cells mimicking this process could aid research into a range of degenerative conditions.

Scientists made the discovery studying bacteria that cause leprosy, which is an infectious neurodegenerative disease. The study, carried out in mice, found that in the early stages of infection, the bacteria were able to protect themselves from the body's immune system by hiding in Schwann cells or glial cells.

Once the infection was fully established, the bacteria were able to convert the Schwann cells to become like stem cells.

Like typical stem cells, these cells were pluripotent, meaning they could then become other cell types, for instance muscle cells. This enabled the bacteria to spread to tissues in the body.

The bacteria-generated stem cells also have another unexpected characteristic. They can secrete specialised proteins called chemokines that attract immune cells, which in turn pick up the bacteria and spread the infection.

Scientists believe these mechanisms, used by leprosy bacteria, could exist in other infectious diseases.

Knowledge of this newly discovered tactic used by bacteria to spread infection could help research to improve treatments and earlier diagnosis of infectious diseases.

The study is published in the journal Cell.

Professor Anura Rambukkana, of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: "Bacterial infections can completely change a cell's make up, which could have a wide-range of implications, including in stem cell research.

"We have found a new weapon in a bacteria's armoury that enables them to spread effectively in the body by converting infected cells to stem cells. Greater understanding of how this occurs could help research to diagnose bacterial infectious diseases, such as leprosy, much earlier."

The study, carried out in Professor Rambukkana's laboratories at the University of Edinburgh and the Rockefeller University, was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.

It showed that when an infected Schwann cell was reprogrammed to become like a stem cell, it lost the function of Schwann cells to protect nerve cells, which transmit signals to the brain. This led to nerves becoming damaged.

Professor Rambukkana added: "This is very intriguing as it is the first time that we have seen that functional adult tissue cells can be reprogrammed into stem cells by natural bacterial infection, which also does not carry the risk of creating tumorous cells.

"Potentially you could use the bacteria to change the flexibility of cells, turning them into stem cells and then use the standard antibiotics to kill the bacteria completely so that the cells could then be transplanted safely to tissue that has been damaged by degenerative disease."

Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine at the MRC, added: "This ground-breaking new research shows that bacteria are able to sneak under the radar of the immune system by hijacking a naturally occurring mechanism to 'reprogramme' cells to make them look and behave like stem cells. This discovery is important not just for our understanding and treatment of bacterial disease, but for the rapidly progressing field of regenerative medicine. In future, this knowledge may help scientists to improve the safety and utility of lab-produced pluripotent stem cells and help drive the development of new regenerative therapies for a range of human diseases, which are currently impossible to treat."

Professor Rambukkana, who is Chair of Regeneration Biology at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, is also a member of the University's Centre for Neuroregeneration and Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Contact: Tara Womersley
University of Edinburgh

Related biology technology :

1. Researchers unlock disease information hidden in genomes control circuitry
2. UCF scientists use nanotechnology to hunt for hidden pathogens
3. Nanowrinkles, nanofolds yield strange hidden channels
4. Veridiams Training Program Wins Accolades and Awards- Meets Skilled Labor Challenge Head On
5. Elsevier Launches Bilingual International Nursing Skill Training and Management Platform:
6. Could probiotics help HIV patients?
7. Molecular machine could hold key to more efficient manufacturing
8. Tiny compound semiconductor transistor could challenge silicons dominance
9. Research discovery could revolutionize semiconductor manufacture
10. Discovery could hold the key to super-sensory hearing
11. Cloning could make structurally pure nanotubes for nanoelectronics
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/30/2015)... , ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global Stem Cells Group announced the ... in the cities of Arica and Iquique in northern Chile. The facilities are part of ... the most advanced protocols and techniques in stem cell medicine to patients from around the ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Mass. , Nov. 30, 2015 ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ ... received written notification from The NASDAQ Stock Market ... bid price requirements. The letter noted that as ... HART,s common stock having exceeded $1.00 per share ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Nov. 30, 2015 Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), ... has acquired Cypher Genomics, Inc., a leading genome informatics ... interpretation software solutions. The San Diego ... including Cypher CEO and Co-founder, Ashley Van Zeeland , ... Business.  Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Germany , November 30, 2015 ... Vienna, Austria to be held December 1-4, ... in Vienna, Austria to be ... owned subsidiary of Vycor Medical, Inc. ("Vycor") (OTCQB: VYCO), announced ... Therapy Suite at the 3rd European Congress of NeuroRehabilitation ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:11/4/2015)... ALBANY, New York , November 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... According to a new market report published by Transparency ... Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", ... value of US$ 30.3 bn by 2022. The market ... during the forecast period from 2015 to 2022. Rising ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... RESTON, Va. , Oct. 29, 2015 ... announced today that it has released a new version ... Daon customers in North America ... gains. IdentityX v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF ... customers are already preparing to activate FIDO features. These ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015 Today, LifeBEAM , a ... 2XU, a global leader in technical performance sports ... with advanced bio-sensing technology. The hat will allow ... key biometrics to improve overall training performance. As ... will bring together the most advanced technology, extensive ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):