Genetically engineered bacteria are sweet success against IBD

August 20, 2009

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 Bacteroides ovatus activates a 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 .

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 of the Institute of Food Research and the University of East Anglia Medical School, lead author on the research. "The beneficial bugs could be activated when they are needed."

The treatment had a significant therapeutic effect. For example, it reduced rectal bleeding, accelerated the healing of the gut lining, and reduced inflammation. It was also able to prevent the onset of disease.

"The bacterium is being used to produce other protein molecules to treat various bowel disorders and we are now applying for funding to try out the bug in humans," said Dr. Zaed Hamady, an MRC Research Fellow at Leeds University.

Since techniques were developed in the 1970s, scientists have found ways to apply them to medicine. Insulin was the first medicine to be genetically engineered and the first genetically engineered vaccine was for . The technology is now opening up ways to deliver drugs to specific targets, as with this treatment to deliver a protein directly to injured areas of the gut.

"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."

Source: Norwich BioScience Institutes

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers offer new targets for drugs against fatty liver disease and liver cancer

August 22, 2017
There may no silver bullet for treating liver cancer or fatty liver disease, but knowing the right targets will help scientists develop the most effective treatments. Researchers in Sweden have just identified a number of ...

Common antiseptic ingredients de-energize cells and impair hormone response

August 22, 2017
A new in-vitro study by University of California, Davis, researchers indicates that quaternary ammonium compounds, or "quats," used as antimicrobial agents in common household products inhibit mitochondria, the powerhouses ...

Gut microbes may talk to the brain through cortisol

August 21, 2017
Gut microbes have been in the news a lot lately. Recent studies show they can influence human health, behavior, and certain neurological disorders, such as autism. But just how do they communicate with the brain? Results ...

Link between cells associated with aging and bone loss

August 21, 2017
Mayo Clinic researchers have reported a causal link between senescent cells - the cells associated with aging and age-related disease - and bone loss in mice. Targeting these cells led to an increase in bone mass and strength. ...

Make way for hemoglobin

August 18, 2017
Every cell in the body, whether skin or muscle or brain, starts out as a generic cell that acquires its unique characteristics after undergoing a process of specialization. Nowhere is this process more dramatic than it is ...

Bio-inspired materials give boost to regenerative medicine

August 18, 2017
What if one day, we could teach our bodies to self-heal like a lizard's tail, and make severe injury or disease no more threatening than a paper cut?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.