Escherichia coli may have medical applications. Scientists from the United States have managed to modify these microorganisms in such a way that they secrete medicinal substances and antibodies in the intestines. This method can be used to treat many diseases of the digestive system.
Thousands of strains of bacteria live in the human body. One such microorganism is Escherichia coli, i.e. the colon bacillus. This symbiotic organism resides in the large intestine, helping to digest food, but in exceptional cases it can also cause serious illness. As research published in the scientific journal “Cell Host & Microbe” shows, with appropriate modifications, these organisms can perform therapeutic functions.
A team of American scientists genetically modified the strain E. coliin such a way that it secretes a protein antibody that inhibits inflammation. Researchers have equipped bacteria with a mechanism for transporting proteins across the outer cell membranes, taken from other microorganisms, and the ability to produce a therapeutic protein. The organisms modified in this way were introduced into the organisms of mice suffering from diseases of the large intestine. Therapy using the microbe has been shown to be as effective in combating colitis and inflammatory bowel disease as drugs.
Study co-author Cammie F. Lesser of the Massachusetts General Hospital explained that drugs that have similar effects but can suppress the immune system are now being used to treat these conditions.
“Patients given these drugs systemically risk developing life-threatening infections and lymphoma. With the help of engineered bacteria, these anti-inflammatory antibodies can be delivered directly to the site of inflammation, she said.
Scientists plan to use the developed method also in the treatment of other diseases of the digestive system – proteins secreted by bacteria can block toxins produced by pathogenic microbes or have a local effect on the surrounding tissues. The latter method may be particularly useful in the treatment of cancer – bacteria E. coli they can colonize and multiply inside tumors. The researchers also want to improve the protein secretion system so that it activates as needed, such as when inflammation occurs.
‘We hope to develop different strains of bacteria that can be used to treat many human diseases by equipping them with therapeutic proteins,’ underlined Lesser.
PAP, Massachusetts General Hospital
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