Lab-grown model of HPV and chlamydia co-infection in the cervix
Gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) – all of these infections target the womb entrance, the cervix. A lack of cervical models makes studying these infections difficult. Researchers now present cervical organoids, made from human ectocervical [vaginal end of the cervix] cells, to investigate infection with a cancer-causing strain of HPV alone or in combination with chlamydia. Half of the organoids were genetically manipulated to introduce HPV genes into their DNA, mimicking what happens during HPV infection. Fluorescence microscopy revealed HPV organoids (pictured, right) matured similarly to non-HPV organoids (left) but with signs of precancerous lesions. When infected with chlamydia both types of organoid showed changes in gene activity relating to the cells' immune responses. Notably, chlamydia co-infection suppressed genetic changes that HPV is known to cause that promote DNA repair. The organoid model, therefore, highlights how coinfections change how the cervix responds, potentially affecting cancer progression in HPV infections.
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