May 21, 2024

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World’s First: Gene-Engineered Bacteria for Early Cancer Cell Detection

World’s First: Gene-Engineered Bacteria for Early Cancer Cell Detection



World’s First: Gene-Engineered Bacteria for Early Cancer Cell Detection.

Amid the rising wave of cellular therapies, bacteria might become the “key agents” in detecting, preventing, and overcoming diseases.

 

On August 10th, the journal “Science” published a remarkable study: a research team from the University of California, San Diego, ingeniously engineered the Acinetobacter baylyi bacterium to detect the presence of cancer cells.   This innovative technology has been named “CATCH.”

 

World's First: Gene-Engineered Bacteria for Early Cancer Cell Detection

 

It’s the first time globally that scientists have used gene-engineered bacteria to detect cancer cells. In the near future, we might witness bacteria becoming true medical detectives, unraveling the mysteries of cancer cell presence.

 

Medical science is quietly steering toward an unprecedented revolution, marked by breakthroughs in gene editing, xenotransplantation, and cellular therapies.

 

Recently, a research article in “Science” reported the successful detection of cancer cells using microorganisms.

 

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, altered the genetic makeup of Acinetobacter baylyi through genetic engineering.

In an experimental setting, they managed to detect cancer cells using gene-engineered bacteria, coining the term “CATCH” for this technology. This marks the world’s first experiment where cancer cells were detected using gene-engineered bacteria.

 

Scientists modified the genome of Acinetobacter baylyi by introducing long DNA sequences of human cancer genes.

These DNA sequences acted as sticky landing pads, akin to spider webs.

When cancer cells passed by, these “webs” rapidly captured the cancer cells and incorporated their genetic material into the bacteria’s genome.

 

Moreover, this process activated a cascade of other specific genes, including antibiotic resistance genes. This group of genes collectively acted as a “cancer detection package.” When microorganisms sensed cancer DNA, they emitted a strong alert.

 

To validate the feasibility of this approach, the researchers conducted a series of experiments.

 

Initially, purified cancer DNA was exposed to the biosensor bacteria, and the results showed that these bacteria successfully identified and adsorbed cancer DNA.

 

Subsequently, they cultured the biosensors with live cancer cells and once again managed to detect the presence of cancer DNA.

 

Lastly, they introduced these specialized bacteria into living mice, some carrying cancer cells and others not.

Weeks later, by observing the presence of tumors in the mice, the researchers successfully differentiated between cancer-afflicted mice and healthy ones.

 

 

 


The Inspiration Behind CATCH: Stemming from a Speech

 

This creative study’s inspiration unexpectedly originated from a speech.

One of the lead authors of the paper, Dan Worthley, recollected that the research began after Rob Cooper delivered a speech at a laboratory meeting at the University of California, San Diego. Cooper, the first author of the study, was primarily engaged in bacterial gene transfer work.

Gene transfer, the process of genes moving from one cell to another, is intertwined with reproduction and cell division.

Cooper introduced a concept that genes could also undergo “horizontal inheritance,” much like bacteria in the microbial world. Certain bacteria could pick up unclaimed genes from the environment, similar to gathering lost “parts.”

Out of the blue, this speech sparked a bold idea in Worthley and his colleagues: if bacteria could capture DNA, could they be utilized to detect cancer?

Subsequently, the researchers turned their attention to colon cancer. When cancer strikes, the intestines are abundant in microorganisms as well as tumor DNA. After countless attempts, this exploration finally bore fruit, as researchers successfully harnessed microorganisms to detect the presence of cancer cells.

The success of this project implies that bacteria might soon become “detectives” in the medical field, retrieving information about cancer cells for humanity.

Although further research and refinement are necessary for this technology, it has injected substantial hope into the future of medicine. Researchers firmly believe that this technology can be applied not only to cancer detection but also to diagnosing other infectious diseases, paving a new path for the future of medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

References:
1. Genetically engineered bacteria can detect cancer cells in a world-first experiment. The Conversation.
2. Engineered bacteria detect tumor DNA. Science.

World’s First: Gene-Engineered Bacteria for Early Cancer Cell Detection

(source:internet, reference only)


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