Genetically modified bacterium as remedy for intestinal diseases

Ghent Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at Ghent University are joining the fight against chronic intestinal disease with a genetically modified bacterium (Lactococcus lactis). The modified bacterium is able to produce medication right in the intestine. This is often the crux of the problem: a number of medicines are presumed to be effective, but until now it has been impossible to get them into the intestine in a simple manner. The researchers have shown that the genetically modified bacterium is able to manufacture the potential medicine, Trefoil Factors, in the intestines of diseased mice.

A typically Western disease

Chronic intestinal inflammations, such as Crohn's disease, are occurring with increasing frequency, striking young adults in particular. In an advanced stage of such inflammations, patients can eat only via catheters.

Crohn's disease has been on the rise in recent years: it is estimated that in Western Europe 2 persons in 1000 suffer from it. This typically Western disease appears almost exclusively in the industrialized world, and more often in cities than in the country.

Genetically modified Lactococcus

In its natural form, the Lactococcus lactis bacterium is a house, garden, and kitchen bacterium. Dairy product manufacturers use large quantities of the bacterium to ferment milk when making hard cheeses. The VIB researchers came up with the idea of using the bacterium as a producer of a remedy for intestinal inflammations. They placed the DNA with the code for a potential medicine inside the DNA of the bacterium. The genetically modified bacterium could then produce the therapeutic protein itself. In 2003, the VIB researchers succeeded in having the Lactococcus manufacture the anti-inflammatory agent IL-10. The IL-10 bacterium shows great promise in the battle against chronic inflammations and is now being tested on patients.

Klaas Vande

Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology

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