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Image of the Week: Helicobacter pylori colonizing the stomach


There's a 50 percent chance that your stomach is home to the spiral-shaped Helicobacter Pylori, a bacterium that chronically infects the human stomach and occasionally gives rise to ulcers. It's estimated that half of the world's population is infected - but 80 percent of infected individuals are asymptomatic.

This week's image, taken with a scanning electron microscope, shows H. Pylori colonizing the ciliated epithelial cells that line the inside of the stomach. Manuel Amieva, MD, PhD, uses live cell imaging and cell culture to study the pathogen. His research group asks some interesting questions about how the microbes make the highly acidic, inhospitable stomach environment their home. According to their paper published in PLoS Pathogens:

We discovered that [H. Pylori] is able to grow on the surface of epithelial cells, even in conditions where the free-swimming bacteria are rapidly killed. One mechanism involved in this ability to colonize the cell surface is the virulence factor CagA, which is injected directly into host cells by the bacteria. We found that CagA's ability to perturb cell polarity is important for the efficient survival and growth of Hp on the apical surface of the host cell.

Research has shown that CagA and other virulence factors used by H. pylori to manipulate host cells may also trigger changes that may ultimately lead to gastric cancer. Scientists are investigating whether the link between H. pylori and stomach cancer merits treatment for infected individuals.

Previously: Researchers manipulate microbes in the gut, Bacterial balance in gut tied to colon cancer risk and Guts and glory: Growing intestinal tissue in a lab dish
Photo by Shuman Tan and Lydia-Marie Joubert

From December 20 to January 3, Scope will be on a limited holiday publishing schedule. During that time, you may also notice a delay in comment moderation. We will return to our regular schedule on January 3.

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