Researchers Are Using Gassy, Explosive Bacteria To Destroy Cancer Cells

Researchers Are Using Gassy, Explosive Bacteria To Destroy Cancer Cells

Andrew H. Sweet

The key to this operation is tiny protein bubbles that biologists call gas vesicles. Some bacteria and protists have the genetic ability to generate these structures on demand: If a microbe wishes to rise to the surface, it can generate a few gas vesicles, making its body more buoyant and pushing it upwards.

The researchers inserted E. coli bacteria, which are known to be inclined to colonize tumors, modified with the gene to let the microbes create gas vesicles.

After letting the bacteria circulate for five days, they turned on the ultrasound. By that time, the researchers found that those bacteria had colonized deep inside of the tumors.

Nearly two weeks after the ultrasound treatment, tumors that had been sabotaged had grown three times more slowly than those that weren't. And the test mice who had received the gas vesicle treatment survived, on average, more than twice as long as their counterparts.

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