Researchers have modified a species of bacteria to make them produce a hunger-suppressing gene. The microbes were then incorporated into mice which thereafter displayed positive effects: the animals did not gain as much weight as other mice not administered with the bacteria, and their body fat decreased. The scientists suggest that this might provide treatment for obesity.
Using GM bacteria to reverse the current trend of obesity
Genetically modified bacteria are increasingly being viewed as a gateway to treatment methodologies. Fixing the microorganisms into ones with new functions and abilities by inserting genes coding for some desired molecules is extremely useful to the biotechnology industry; insulin and antibodies are thus manufactured. Furthermore, GM bacteria can even be used for ecological purposes: for instance, they can be incorporated in anti-pollution programs. Yet another use is to enhance soil fertility. A team of scientists from Vanderbilt University have propelled this trend onto another level: synthesising engineered bacteria to curb obesity.
A common group of gut bacteria (bacterium E. coli) has been modified to produce molecules (genes) known to reduce the intake of food. The hunger-suppressing genes are called NAPEs. Their natural synthesis occurs as a response to feeding. In obese people, however, these genes are not produced in adequate amounts. This leads the affected individuals to overeat.
Basically, the microorganisms are tiny machines that cause to eat less.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers inserted the microbes into mice which were on a high fat diet. After the mice were administered the microbes, they ate significantly less. They gained 15 % less weight than mice not fed with the microbes. As a result of the microbes in their systems, their body fat decreased. Additionally, the mice did not develop diabetes. Furthermore, the mice became less at risk to develop fatty liver disease.
Another finding was that the positive effects lasted for many weeks.
The results indicate that the microbes might generate similar beneficial effects in humans as well.
It is known that the microflora constituting an important part of our alimentary canal exerts a certain effect on our weight. Scientists now wish to expand the knowledge of the microbes residing in our bodies and how this information can be exploited for the benefit of humanity.