The Microbial Attack Plan
The painful ulcers of Crohn's disease occur when the body's immune system attacks the normal bacteria found in the gut. Now scientists are using microbes to fight back.
Microbial Attack: Step One
produces interleukin-10 (IL-10), an immune-calming molecule, into the L. lactis bacteria.
Microbial Attack: Step Two
The new gene replaces the gene that produces thymide, an essential nutrient, so the modified bacteria can live for only a few days.
Microbial Attack: Step Three
A Crohn’s-disease patient swallows the modified bacteria, delivering the IL-10 payload straight into the intestines.
Microbial Attack: Step Four
The bacteria [A] colonize the gut and begin producing IL-10 [B]. This compound inhibits the body’s natural killer cells [C] and suppresses the patient’s overactive immune response.
Microbial Attack: Step Five
As long as the patient keeps ingesting the modified L. lactis bacteria, the bacteria will produce enough IL-10 to stop the immune system from attacking the intestines, giving the ulcers time to heal.