Mayo Clinic discovery is first step toward new bacteria-based constipation treatment

June 13, 2018, Mayo Clinic

Genetically engineered bacteria are showing promise as a new treatment for constipation, researchers at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine have discovered in a mouse study. The finding is significant in part because there are few approved constipation remedies on the market. The research is published in Cell Host & Microbe.

Because the community of bacteria found within the stomach and intestines—known as the gut microbiome—is unique to each person, generic probiotics don't work for everyone. Probiotics are live bacteria that can aid in digestion.

The genetically engineered in the Mayo study produced large amounts of the chemical tryptamine. This chemical helps food pass through the intestines with potentially less risk of side effects than other drugs.

"Tryptamine is similar to the chemical serotonin, which is produced in our gut," says lead author Purna. Kashyap, M.B.B.S., associate director of the Center for Individualized Medicine Microbiome Program. "In this study, we found tryptamine can activate a receptor in the mouse gut that normally responds to serotonin, causing increased secretion of fluid from the lining of the colon. Bacteria can direct the colon to secrete water via tryptamine acting on a host receptor in mice. This accelerates the movement of food through the digestive system."

For decades, people with constipation have often been advised to change their diets, but that hasn't worked universally because everyone is unique in terms of their genes and microbiome, Dr. Kashyap says.

"These spur transit of food through the digestive system without messing with diet and microbes," he says.

Bacterially produced tryptamine quickly degrades in the intestine and does not appear to increase in the bloodstream. That reduces the risk of side effects outside the gastrointestinal tract. Other drugs for constipation can affect different areas of the body, including the heart.

"Our goal with this research is to find treatments that act only in the GI tract without creating problems in other parts of the body," Dr. Kashyap says.

The findings are also important to the study of gastrointestinal disorders such as .

Additional preclinical studies will be done to verify the findings: A clinical trial with humans is likely at least three years away, Dr. Kashyap says.

Explore further: Genetic makeup and diet interact with the microbiome to impact health

Related Stories

Genetic makeup and diet interact with the microbiome to impact health

September 25, 2013
A Mayo Clinic researcher, along with his collaborators, has shown that an individual's genomic makeup and diet interact to determine which microbes exist and how they act in the host intestine. The study was modeled in germ-free ...

Specific bacteria in the small intestine are crucial for fat absorption

April 11, 2018
Although the vast majority of research on the gut microbiome has focused on bacteria in the large intestine, a new study—one of a few to concentrate on microbes in the upper gastrointestinal tract—shows how the typical ...

Food's transit time is a key factor in digestive health

June 28, 2016
The time it takes for ingested food to travel through the human gut – also called transit time – affects the amount of harmful degradation products produced along the way. This means that transit time is a key factor ...

Growing evidence that probiotics are good for your liver

April 23, 2018
Increased awareness of the importance of the microbes that live in our gut has spurred a great deal of research on the microbiome and fueled a booming probiotics industry. A new study suggests probiotics can improve not only ...

Small changes make big differences in digestion

March 8, 2018
The bacteria in your gut do more than simply help digest your food. The microorganisms living in your digestive tract can also influence your overall health, including your mood and susceptibility to illness and disease.

Recommended for you

Gene plays critical role in noise-induced deafness

October 19, 2018
In experiments using mice, a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered a gene that plays an essential role in noise-induced deafness. Remarkably, by administering an experimental chemical—identified in a separate ...

Functional engineered oesophagus could pave way for clinical trials 

October 18, 2018
The world's first functional oesophagus engineered from stem cells has been grown and successfully transplanted into mice, as part of a pioneering new study led by UCL.

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

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.