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Scientists Create Genetically-Modified Salmonella to Eat Cancer Tumors

Jan 19, 2017 07:00 AM EST
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Everybody doesn't want to experience food poisoning. It's hassling and inconvenient for everyone. However, a strain of food poisoning may be our best ally in fighting an even worse enemy: Glioblastomas, one of the deadliest form of brain cancer.

According to a new research project carried out by biomedical engineers at Duke University, the Salmonella typhimurium can be fixed to become a veritable "cancer-eating" missile.

Ravi Bellamkoda, Vinik Dead of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, told Digital Trends that brain tumors are hard to beat because they invade brain tissue and don't have a clear "edge" that allows neurosurgeons to remove all of them.

However, the motivation of the new study is to create and design a system that has the ability to seek out and localize remote, metastatic tumors within the brain and express tumor-killing proteins.

The prospect is intriguing for now. The really unique insight is to turn food poisoning as the weapon of choice. Since it has a tendency to make people sick, salmonella is perfectly suited for the role as it is a bacteria with the ability to move in dense tissues like the brain.

According to  Engadget, if salmonella can be used in making a deficient essential building block to survive, such as the organic compound purine, it could be pushed to eat tumors. Purines are enriched in tumors, so this way, the bacteria has no choice but look for the tumors and eat them.

The researchers now engineered the tumor-killing cargo of these bacteria only to be expressed and released when the oxygen tension is low. Because tumors grow rapidly, most of them have low oxygen tension, so the tumor-killing proteins will only be released by in tumor-inflicted regions.

The next phase of the concept will answer questions concerning the response rate to treatment and the analysis about how the work impacts on different subsets of tumors. 

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