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Many disease-causing microbes manipulate their host’s metabolism and cells for their own ends. Microsporidia—which are parasites closely related to fungi—infect and multiply inside animal cells, and take the rearranging of cells’ interiors to a new level. They reprogram animal cells such that the cells start to fuse, causing them to form long, continuous tubes. As shown in this image of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, microsporidia (dark oval shapes) invaded the worm’s gut cells (long tube; the cell nuclei are shown in red) and have instructed the cells to merge. The cell fusion enables the microsporidia to thrive and propagate in the expanded space. Scientists study microsporidia in worms to gain more insight into how these parasites manipulate their host cells. This knowledge might help researchers devise strategies to prevent or treat infections with microsporidia. For more on the research into microsporidia, see this news release from the University of California San Diego. Related to images 5777 and 5779.
Keir Balla and Emily Troemel, University of California San Diego
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