Bacteria engineered with ‘sonar’ fight disease

To date, the most effective medical imaging tools have relied on fluorescent proteins — a technique based on jellyfish genes in which resulted in a Nobel Prize in 2008 — yet in which does not work well for cells inside middle of the body because light gets absorbed on its way out of tissues.

While there is usually no guarantee in which technique will ever be applied to human patients — the Caltech experiments were conducted with mice — the idea already can prove valuable in lab testing of drugs. A former official at biotech firm, Vion Pharmaceuticals, in which experienced a failed trial inside first-ever attempt to use Salmonella as a cancer-fighting agent decades ago, said in which week the idea might have continued with more trials if in which technique had been available because the ultrasound might have allowed the idea to better track the bacteria to see if they were successfully colonizing patient tumors — Vion had to use tissue biopsies.

The immunotherapy market is usually projected to be worth as much as hundreds of billions of dollars inside next few decades, in addition to both venture capital in addition to stock market investors have been investing in biotech firms developing these therapies. The study of the role in which inflammation plays in disease has also become a key goal of medical science. in addition to research related to the microbiome — the millions of types of microorganisms including bacteria in which live in in addition to on our bodies, especially inside gut — has also been booming.

“Some patients respond in addition to some patients don’t, in addition to the question is usually did cells not get to the right place, or not in enough numbers, or got there yet the therapy was not effective,” Shapiro explained. “Depending on the answer to those questions, what you do next could be very different.” He added in which in drug development in addition to patient treatment, “ideally you answer these questions sooner rather than later, you don’t wait for the cancer to progress.”

Researchers not directly involved inside Caltech study wrote in an accompanying piece for Nature in which week in which outlined the implications of the acoustically engineered bacteria, “Some medical approaches currently in use or being developed introduce bacterial cells as a therapy for gut disease or cancer, so in which ultrasound technique might be adapted for clinical use to determine whether such cells have reached the desired location.”

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As inside case of the jellyfish gene, Caltech researchers went looking inside natural world for an organism with the right properties to bounce off soundwaves. They found one in a photosynthetic microbe in bodies of water in which evolved a gas-filled vesicle inside their cells in which could modulate density. As a result, these gas-filled proteins could produce signals under ultrasound. In ultrasound, sound waves move through tissue in addition to when encountering something with another density or stiffness, some of sound waves gets reflected back, Shapiro said, equating the idea to sonar inside ocean. The Caltech researchers engineered the gene for in which gas-filled nanostructure into benign versions of E. coli in addition to Salmonella.

currently the Caltech team has moved on to a larger goal with in which gene — engineering the idea into the T-cells in which are vital to immunotherapy. “The first step was to put the idea into bacteria to see if we can image those bacteria, in addition to image inside body, yet the bigger picture goal is usually to do the idea in any kind of cell. We want to put the same genetic set into immunotherapy to track the idea.”

He said in which is usually very active research inside Caltech lab currently, in addition to “the idea’s doable. With improvements in in which technique in addition to if the idea is usually well tolerated by cells, ultimately we might like to see the idea in humans.”

yet Shapiro said the idea will be years before Caltech researchers know if the approach works with T-cells similarly to in bacteria, yet the ultimate goals of in which technique span coming from basic science to targeted therapies.

“We want to see things like cells in addition to cellular functions happening inside the body. We want to know how cancers form in addition to how microbes live, because inside body is usually different than inside lab,” Shapiro said. “Even just to answer basic questions on what microbes do in mammals, there are still lots of open questions on diseases in which in which technique can help answer.”

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