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Using bacteria to deliver drugs

By Tim Sandle     May 10, 2015 in Science
Boston - By re-engineering protein-shuttling machinery, researchers have used bacteria to inject a particular protein into mammalian cells.
A research group been examining a bacterium’s mechanism of transporting molecules inside other cells. This has led to the development of a reconfigured "protein-delivery service." According to The Scientist, this newly devised mechanism "could be used as a drug delivery vehicle."
Although other research groups have been studying similar mechanisms, what is important about the new research is that other work has involved pathogenic organisms, and thus a risk of human harm exists. Pathogens rely upon a method of protein injection based on so-termed "effectors." Bacterial effectors, Nottingham University posts, are proteins secreted by pathogenic bacteria into the cells of their host. When these effector proteins are inhibited, the pathogenic organism is no longer considered to be virulent.
In order to side-step the sue of pathogens, Dr. Cammie Lesser (Massachusetts General Hospital) used the gene coding relating to the protein secretion mechanimsm of the organism Shigella flexneri and genetically transferred this into the microbe Escherichia coli . Although E. coli is often associated as a pathogen, most strains of the bacterium are non-pathogenic.
In a research note, the scientists report that the new system has potential:. Here they write: “On the basis of our ability to generate variants of several mammalian proteins that are recognized as secreted substrates, we anticipate that a wide variety of proteins can be modified by a type 3 secretion sequence and delivered into mammalian cells by these bacterial strains." The reference to "type 3" concerns the most common secretion system that pathogenic bacteria use is pass in their virulent toxins into a host cell.
In terms of the next steps, according to the science website Chemical & Engineering News: “Lesser and her colleagues are taking the next step toward therapies. Currently they are engineering bacteria that can deliver anti-inflammatory proteins to treat inflammatory bowel disease.” So, this could be the basis of a novel drug delivery system."
The research has been published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology. The research paper is titled: "Engineering Escherichia coli into a Protein Delivery System for Mammalian Cells."
More about Bacteria, Drugs, Drug delivery, Protein
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