Researchers are wiring gut bacteria to fight against diseases

Researchers are engineering yogurts in such a way that they will be able to guard our guts and take out pathogens. By rewiring the genes of the common gut bacterium Escherichia coli, scientists have created a killer that can chase down, detect and destroy microbes that actually make you sick.

Matthew Wook Chang and his colleagues are modifying the E.Coli in such a way that they will be able to fight against the different diseases.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that seizes any chance to infect people with weak immune systems, was used for the research. This can cause major havoc in hospital wards, in the guts of premature babies, and also in the lungs of those who have cystic fibrosis. Chang cultured the E.Coli in the lab. They were injected in the guts of mice, and the mice were kept safe.“We’re about to wrap up animal studies,” he says. “The survival rate of the mice was significantly increased.” He is now planning to target other harmful bacteria.

Chang is just one of a growing club of scientists who are using our microbiome, which is a vast community of microbes that live in or on our bodies in the pursuit of better health. When armed with the tools of synthetic biology, they are modifying the bacteria with circuitry composed of new combinations of genes, by turning them into precision-targeted micro-drones designed to fix and detect problems.

The bacteria wait for pathogens like cholera bacterium Vibrio cholerae or P. aeruginosa, and then they release lethal payloads when they have the enemy in sight. Some of them use the same tactics to attack cancer cells. Others can also sense signs of inflammation and release chemicals that could help to treat chronic conditions like Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease.

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