In recent years, the gut microbiome has been identified as a major player in determining an individual’s health. Attempts to understand the microbiome, a collection of microscopic organisms, including healthy bacteria, has been the target of a significant body of research. For example, studies examining dietary impact on health have acknowledged how individualized gut microbiota play a role in how people respond to different diest. As a result, scientists have sought to understand how it affects our health and how best to manipulate it, from a therapeutic perspective. Some have even gone so far as to refer to the microbiome as a “newly discovered organ,” highlighting its untapped potential.
The administration of microbes (or bacteria) has become a common therapeutic approach for treating various illnesses. Because the microbiome is all about balance of the microbes in our body’s, the administration of microbes could have therapeutic benefits by helping restore balance or change the constitution of someone’s microbiome. For example, some bacteria are known to be more prevalent in healthy guts, such as Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, one of the most common bacteria found in the gut microbiome.
The problem is, bacteria are very fragile, and can easily be destroyed during processes to manufacture and administer them for the gut. Because bacteria are anaerobic organisms, exposure to oxygen can put an undue amount of stress on them. As a result, many of the processes used to freeze bacteria in preparation for therapy can damage bacteria. Researchers at MIT may have found a solution.
According to an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers have developed a coating that could protect these bacteria during processing and potentially administration.
The coating was a synthetic material made from polyphenols and iron, which, when mixed with bacteria, formed a coating that latched to the bacteria and created a protective coating. During the freezing process, the coating proved effective in protecting bacteria when they were placed into capsules for administration.