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The first ‘living medicine’: Revolutionary GM microbes can ‘mop up’ toxins in the human body

The first ‘living medicine’: Revolutionary GM microbes can ‘mop up’ toxins in the human body

  • Researchers altered a common strain of bacteria to mop up excess ammonia
  •  High levels of the chemical can be fatal for some

Genetically modified bacteria could be used to treat liver and bowel diseases by mopping up toxins inside the gut.

Researchers tested the groundbreaking technique by creating a a common strain of bacteria mop up excess ammonia in the body.

High levels of the chemical can be fatal for people with liver damage and rare genetic disorders.

The genetically modified bacteria created by Synlogic, a firm co-founded by MIT, could be used to treat liver and bowel diseases by mopping up toxins inside the gut. Researchers tested the groundbreaking technique by creating a a common strain of e.coli bacteria mop up excess ammonia in the body. Stock image shown.

HOW IT WORKS 

The medicine, which is orally administered, uses the ‘tools and principles of synthetic biology to engineer a strain of non-pathogenic bacteria (E. coli Nissle) to perform or deliver specific functions lost or damaged due to disease,’ the firm behind it says. 

Humans have taken E coli nissle as a probiotic for more than a century 

The bacteria, created by Synlogic, a firm co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was able to reduce dangerous levels of ammonia, boosting survival rates in susceptible mice.

‘Mice orally dosed with SYNB1020 demonstrated lower blood ammonia and increased survival,’ the firm said.

A small trial in healthy people found the bacteria worked as expected and were safe to take.

‘These data demonstrate that we can engineer bacteria to carry out a specific function, deliver them to humans and that they perform as designed,’ said Paul Miller, Ph.D., Synlogic’s chief scientific officer.

The medicine, which is orally administered, uses the  ‘tools and principles of synthetic biology to engineer a strain of non-pathogenic bacteria (E. coli Nissle) to perform or deliver specific functions lost or damaged due to disease,’ the firm says.

Officially known as SYNB1020, it  has been designed to respond to the low oxygen environment of the large intestine to convert ammonia into arginine, an amino acid. 

In addition, Synthetic Biotic medicines are engineered to limit their replication after manufacturing so that they do not grow or colonize the GI tract, it is claimed.

For safety reasons, the microbes were also genetically changed so they could not reproduce.  

The firm now hopes to begin scaling up the treatment. 

‘Ongoing manufacturing and formulation development work at Synlogic gives us confidence we will be able to scale and formulate our Synthetic biotic medicines to meet multiple needs in the marketplace for living medicines.  

WHAT IS HYPERAMMONEMIA?

The new medication could be a breakthrough in the treatment of hyperammonemia, a metabolic condition characterized by an excess of ammonia in the blood. 

In healthy individuals, ammonia is primarily produced in the intestine as a byproduct of protein metabolism. Ammonia is then converted to urea in the liver and is excreted in urine.

However, if the liver’s ability to convert ammonia to urea is compromised, either due to a genetic defect such as a urea cycle disorder (UCD) or acquired liver disease that leads to cirrhosis, ammonia accumulates in the blood. 

Elevated blood ammonia levels are toxic to the brain and can have severe consequences, including neurologic crises requiring hospitalization, irreversible cognitive damage and death. 

 

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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