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Scar Over?

A mouse model for studying the mechanisms underlying the Chinese liver fluke parasite liver damage

05 July 2023

Scar Over?

The Chinese liver fluke is a flatworm found in freshwater environments. Around 15 million people in East Asia are currently infected by this parasite, often due to eating undercooked fish. Setting up camp in the bile ducts, the flatworm feeds on bile and causes liver scarring and cancer – although we don't understand exactly how. Here in cross-section we see two parasitic worms (white) surrounded by the scarred bile duct tissue (purple) of a mouse. Scientists developed genetically modified mice that capture the features of human disease when infected by the flatworm. Using these mice, they discovered that the Chinese liver fluke releases molecules that activate the immune system and cause inflammation. This rallies cells called myofibroblasts to the infection site, where they trigger scarring. This new understanding could help researchers develop more effective treatments for Chinese liver fluke infections and even ways to prevent the long-term damage they cause.

Written by Henry Stennett

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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