The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully programmed the friendly bacteria inside our body to detect diseases like colon cancer and immune disorder- and treat them. They have unveiled sensors, circuits, and memory switches to be encoded in bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, found in human gut system.
Agroup of MIT researchers recently published a research paper in the journal Cell Systems and explained how these basic computing elements could be encoded in the bacteria. This ground-breaking technology allows bacteria to detect the signals in gut, and then respond to them accordingly. They can also memorize the signals and their own behavior.
This programmed bacteria could be used in early detection of inflammatory bowel diseases and their treatment. This concept of sensing and detecting diseases can also be used in other parts of the body with suitable bacteria.
“We wanted to work with strains like B. thetaiotaomicron that are present in many people in abundant levels, and can stably colonize the gut for long periods of time,” according to Timothy Lu, an associated professor of biological engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science.
The researchers used CRISPR interface technology to control the bacteria genes by turning on and off. This test was done by providing the bacteria some sort of genetic memory. However, the team didn’t reveal the process of retrieving the information from the bacteria.
In addition to this development, further progress could be made by making advanced genetic computing circuits.
“Whereas others have developed tools and applications for engineering genetic circuits, or biosensors, in bacteria that are then placed in the gut, this paper stands out from the crowd by first engineering a member of the Bacteroides genus, the most common type of bacteria found in our guts,” Tom Ellis, group leader of the Centre for Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research, says.