Scientists in Belgium have come up with a way of preventing live bacteria used in an experimental biotechnology therapy from propagating and disseminating in the environment. A modified form of a dairy bacterium Lactococcus lactis that normally lives in the gut is soon to be tested clinically to see if it can treat inflammatory bowel disease - rather like eating live yogurt to cure an upset tummy. Because the bacterium is genetically modified, however, it must be prevented from surviving outside the patients’ bodies. In the July issue of Nature Biotechnology, Lothar Steidler and colleagues describe a genetic modification strategy (GM) for doing just that. By substituting an essential survival gene in the bacterium with the therapeutic gene (interleukin-10), they engineer an organism that delivers IL-10 to fight inflammatory bowel disease, but is hampered from persisting outside of the body.
The researchers' strategy was to substitute a gene producing the nutrient thymidine (which is essential for surviving in the environment but not necessary for survival in the intestine because thymidine is more abundant) with the therapeutic gene encoding interleukin-10. The therapeutic approach has prompted the Dutch government to approve the use of the bacteria to treat inflammatory bowel disease in human trials - the first application of a genetically modified bacterium in human therapy.
Ghent University, Belgium
(Currently at University College Cork, Ireland)
Tel: +353 21 490 1383
Also available online.
(C) Nature Biotechnology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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