Synthetic bacteria could help cure rare diseases

Researchers using synthetic bacteria have carried out successful trials on a group of volunteers in order to help cure phenylketonuria.


NSFW    MASSACHUSETTS — Researchers have reached an important milestone in synthetic biology by carrying out successful trials on a group of volunteers in order to help treat people who suffer from phenylketonuria.
The genetically engineered probiotic developed by Synlogic could become the first synthetic biology-based medical treatment to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according the New York Times.
People who suffer from phenylketonuria, or PKU, must avoid dietary protein in foods like meat and cheese, because their bodies cannot break down the amino acid phenylalanine, or Phe.
The study, published on August 13 in Nature Biotechnology, showed that the probiotic can significantly lower Phe levels in both mouse models of PKU and in healthy monkeys, according to The Scientist.

The treatment is called SYNB1618 and is a modified version of the probiotic Escherichia coli Nissle.
Researchers say treatment with SYNB1618 is a two-step process. The first step is to get patients' blood Phe under control. The second step is to relax the diet and slowly add natural protein into their diet.
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