The bacterium causing leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, has been next to impossible to study because of extreme difficulties associated with its culturing and the lack of animal models. A particularly vexing question that remains unanswered is how M. leprae, an obligate intracellular pathogen, inflicts damage to separate tissues and organs around the body. The present study provides a twofold breakthrough in this field. The authors* were not only able to create a model for the infection using mouse Schwann nerve cells, but in the course of their studies the team also discovered a fairly unexpected mechanism by which the mysterious bacteria invade human tissues. Through incubation of isolated Schwann cells with M. leprae, the authors found that the bacteria trigger reprogramming of the adult nerve cells, turning them to a progenitor/stem-like type (Figure 1).