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Study reveals stem cells in a human parasite
Date:2/25/2013

CHAMPAIGN, lll. From the point of view of its ultimate (human) host, the parasitic flatworm Schistosoma mansoni has a gruesome way of life. It hatches in feces-tainted water, grows into a larva in the body of a snail and then burrows through human skin to take up residence in the veins. Once there, it grows into an adult, mates and, if it's female, starts laying eggs. It can remain in the body for decades.

A new study offers insight into the cellular operations that give this flatworm its extraordinary staying power. The researchers, from the University of Illinois, demonstrated for the first time that S. mansoni harbors adult, non-sexual stem cells that can migrate to various parts of its body and replenish tissues. Their report appears in the journal Nature.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 230 million people are in need of treatment for Schistosoma infections every year. Most live in impoverished areas with little or no access to clean water. Infection with the worm (also known as a blood fluke) can lead to damaging inflammation spurred by the presence of the worm's eggs in human organs and tissues.

"The female lays eggs more or less continuously, on the order of hundreds of eggs per day," said U. of I. cell and developmental biology professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Phillip Newmark, who led the study with postdoctoral researcher James J. Collins III.

"The eggs that don't get excreted in the feces to continue the life cycle actually become embedded inside host tissues, typically the liver, and those eggs trigger a massive inflammatory response that leads to tissue damage."

Children are especially
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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