SEP 15, 2016 9:28 AM PDT

Method for Sending Good Bacteria to the GI Tract is Created

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
Scientists have linked the microbiome, the community of bacterial organisms that reside in our gut, with myriad health conditions and disease states. It’s become increasingly apparent that a good microbial composition in the gastrointestinal tract is crucial to good health. So how to treat disruption and imbalances in the gut? Fecal transplants are one way, but scientists at MIT have now created another that is a lot less weird.
 
A team of MIT scientists has developed a strategy for delivering large numbers of beneficial bacterial to the human gut. / Credit: Second Bay Studios

Ana Jaklenec is a research scientist at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and is one of the senior authors of a paper in the journal Advanced Materials that outlines a new method for sending beneficial microbes to the gut.

“Once the microbiome is better understood, we can use this delivery platform to target certain areas and introduce certain species there,” explained Jaklenec.

The researchers have created a method for coating bacteria with polymer layers that can protect them from the corrosive acids and bile salts that are typically found in the digestive tract. The microbes are thus able to travel into the intestine where they find a home in the intestinal lining and finally, start reproducing.

“The bacteria are delivered and they adhere to the intestinal wall, where they survive much better than noncoated bacteria,” commented the paper’s first author, Koch Institute postdoc Aaron Anselmo.

Another common form of treatment for gastrointestinal issues is probiotics, often prescribed to patients suffering from Crohn’s disease and colitis. But probiotics are not well standardized and contain variable amounts of a wide range of bacteria, some of which may not be alive by the time they are ingested by the patient or by the time they reach the intestine because they lack any protection.

In this new work, the scientists outline a gentle process of applying alternating positively and negatively charged layers of polysaccharides that are known to adhere to the intestinal lining. The two polysaccharides that were selected, chitosan and alginate, have been used before in other technologies for oral delivery. If you would like to know more about the general layering process, called layer-by-layer assembly, watch the short interview below with Professor Paula Hammond from MIT.
 


“It’s a reasonably gentle process, so you’re not destroying the bacteria,” explained Jaklenec. It was found that coated bacteria survived at a rate that was six times higher than uncoated bacteria.
"Increasingly, scientists are learning that the microbiome plays an important role in many diseases, yet the technological tools to safely, effectively, and precisely engineer the microbiome are lacking.

This research may help in this effort by creating delivery vehicles that can more effectively shuttle desirable probiotics safely through stomach acid and bile salts to reach the intestines, with the potential to modify human disease,” Jordan Green, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research, told MIT News.

This technique has the potential to be an alternative to fecal transplant therapy, currently in clinical trials to treat infections from Clostridium difficile. Fecal transplants have to be performed by colonoscopy or enema. If you’d like to learn more about them, watch the video below, a short TED Talk by fecal transplant expert Dr. Mark Davis.
 

The authors of this work suggest their invention could be simply added to a therapeutic drink or packaged in a capsule. They are currently working on adapting this technology for use in other parts of the GI tract and entirely different parts of the body such as the mouth and skin.
 
Sources: MIT NewsAdvanced Materials
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 22, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 22, 2020
Biosignatures detect TB infections months before symptoms appear
What if there was a test that could detect tuberculosis six months before symptoms appear? Researchers at the University of College London think a predicti...
FEB 13, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 13, 2020
A Very Unusual Virus is Discovered in Brazil
Researchers in Brazil have discovered a very unusual virus infecting amoeba in an artificial lake called Lake Pampulha in the city of Belo Horizonte....
MAR 05, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 05, 2020
Researchers Learn How Gut Microbes Can Promote Heart Disease
The microbes in our gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, have a powerful impact on our health and well-being....
MAR 10, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 10, 2020
Study Suggests 14-Day Quarantine for SARS-CoV-2 is Reasonable
The vast majority (97.5%) of people will develop symptoms of infection within 11.5 days of exposure to the virus....
MAR 18, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 18, 2020
The Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is Stable for Hours on Surfaces
SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus that causes an illness called COVID-19. There are now well over 210,000 confirmed cases worldwide....
MAR 29, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 29, 2020
Plastic-Eating Microbe is Found
Plastics entered the consumer market after World War II and since then it's been used in countless ways....
Loading Comments...