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Engineered bacteria sense, remember, and report on their experience in the gut

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Posted March 19, 2014
Bacterial reporters that get the scoop
Inspired by Nature, the team engineered E. coli to sense, record and remember an environmental signal in the gut — and also demonstrated that they can survive and function within complex environments such as the mammalian gut. This work lays the foundation for the use of engineered probiotic bacteria that serve as living diagnostics. In this schematic engineered probiotic E. coli have colonized the mammalian intestine and “remember” exposure to an environmental signal, which is indicated by the cells turning blue in color. Credit: Jonathan Kotula, Harvard’s Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School
It’s a jungle in there. In the tightly woven ecosystem of the human gut, trillions of bacteria compete with each other on a daily basis while they sense and react to signals from the immune system, ingested food, and other bacteria.

Problems arise when bad gut bugs overtake friendly ones, or when the immune system is thrown off balance, as in Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and colorectal cancer. Doctors have struggled to diagnose these conditions early and accurately. But now a new engineered strain of E. coli bacteria could deliver status updates from this complex landscape to help keep gastrointestinal diseases at bay.

The new strain non-destructively detected and recorded an environmental signal in the mouse gut, and remembered what it “saw.” The advance, reported in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to a radically new screening tool for human gut health.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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