Genetically engineered bacteria treat symptoms of incurable disease
For the first time, scientists have used a genetically engineered “friendly” bacterium to deliver a therapy.
The treatment is for bowel disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, which affects one in 400 people in the UK and for which there is no cure.
The bacterium Bacteroides ovatus activates a protein when exposed to a specific type of sugar, xylan. In research to be published in Gut, the therapy has been proven to work in animals with colitis, one of the major forms of inflammatory bowel disease.
The bacterium is able to deliver the protein, a human growth factor called KGF-2, directly to the damaged cells that line the gut, unlike other treatments which can cause unwanted side effects. Also unlike other treatments, it is envisaged that patients will be able to control the medication themselves by ingesting xylan, perhaps in the form of a drink.
“This is the first time that anyone has been able to control a therapeutic protein in a living system using something that can be eaten,” said Professor Simon Carding…lead author on the research. “The beneficial bugs could be activated when they are needed…”
“Initially I envisage this being an adjunct therapy to patients’ existing medicine, but eventually it could be the sole therapy,” said Professor Carding. “Once our bugs are in the colon they could be activated when needed so we aim to use our bugs to prevent disease or relapse in IBD.”
RTFA for the details.
Worth a “bravo” even if it scares the hell out of the Luddites.