Scientists develop a new way to treat common bowel diseases

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The world of microbes living in the human gut can have far-reaching effects on human health.

Multiple diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are tied to the balance of these microbes, suggesting that restoring the right balance could help treat disease.

Many probiotics—living yeasts or bacteria—that are currently on the market have been optimized through evolution in the context of a healthy gut.

However, in order to treat complex diseases such as IBD, a probiotic would need to serve many functions, including an ability to turn off inflammation, reverse the damage and restore the gut microbiome.

In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers have developed a “designer” probiotic—a thoughtfully engineered yeast that can induce multiple effects for treating IBD.

They have taken yeast—the very yeast that’s used to make beer—and they have given it the ability to sense inflammation and secrete an anti-inflammatory molecule.

This new platform ‘Y-bots’ (yeast robots) can help develop therapeutics that can treat diseases of the gut tissue and more.

In the study, the team used Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast used in winemaking, baking and brewing.

Using the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9, they introduced genetic elements that could sense inflammation and respond to it.

The engineered yeast can secrete different levels of enzyme, depending upon how much of the inflammatory signal is present at a location in the gut. This means that the probiotic can have a highly localized response to inflammation.

In mice, the engineered yeast successfully suppressed intestinal inflammation, reduced fibrosis and restored a balanced gut microbiome.

To bring this new therapeutic platform to bear on IBD and other diseases in humans, the team will need to conduct safety studies. They also plan to further refine and test the engineered yeast to see if they can speed up tissue repair.

Beyond IBD, the team plans to investigate the use of engineered probiotics for treating a common side effect of cancer immunotherapy, colitis.

If you care about bowel diseases, please read studies about this common bowel problem may increase depression risk and findings of an important cause and a treatment for common bowel disease.

For more information about bowel health, please see recent studies about this diet could help reduce inflammatory bowel disease and results showing that this type of gut bacteria may cause bowel cancer.

The study is published in Nature Medicine. One author of the study is Francisco Quintana, Ph.D.

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