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Bacteria engineered to produce Parkinson’s disease drug in the gut

Date: 4.4.2022 

New research presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting has demonstrated the potential for genetically engineered bacteria to be an effective Parkinson’s disease treatment. The researchers created a bacteria that can synthesize a consistent source of medicine inside a patient’s gut, and animal tests have demonstrated it is safe and effective.

Kredit: USDA, ARS, EMU / Wikimedia Commons.The idea of engineering bacteria to serve as medical treatments is not new. For years scientists have experimented with ways of modifying bacteria to fit our needs, from engineering bacteria to eat up excess ammonia in a human body to helping bacteria hunt down colorectal cancer cells.

New research from a team of scientists has presented an incremental step forward in engineering a novel strain of the human probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917 that has been developed to continually synthesize a Parkinson’s disease drug known as L-DOPA.

L-DOPA is a molecule that acts as a precursor to dopamine and it has been the gold-standard treatment for Parkinson’s patients for decades. Doctors have found that after around five years of L-DOPA treatment patients often develop side effects known as dyskinesias. These side effects are thought to be related to the lack of a continuous source of the drug to the brain.

So to address this problem the new research explored whether bacteria producing L-DOPA in the gut could result in a consistent delivery of the drug to the brain. Piyush Padhi, a researcher working on the project, said the engineered bacteria eat up a molecule called tyrosine and spit out L-DOPA.

"After several iterations and improving gut microbiome-based drug delivery technology, we have developed a gut-healthy probiotic bacteria that can produce stable levels of L-DOPA in a way that can be highly tuned to deliver the dose required for each patient," Padhi explained.





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