This parasitic worm lurks in tropical waters, waiting for an opportunity to penetrate the skin of a person wading barefoot, travel through their body, and set up home. Such worms, called Schistosoma (one pictured), can live for decades in its human host, seemingly unfazed by the attacks from our immune system or anti-parasitic drugs. Scientists have now found out how they can survive under siege. They took note of distant relatives of Schistosoma – planarian worms – that have the power to regenerate damaged tissue and organs by means of their hyperactive self-renewing stem cells called neoblasts. Guessing this regenerating power may be shared, the team identified the relevant cells in Schistosoma using a cell-labelling technique (white dots). These cells did indeed self-renew – forming identical clones. Discovering neoblast-like cells in Schistosoma explains their nonchalance in the face of our defences and could help shorten the stay of these home-invaders.
Written by Georgina Askeland