For the first time using microbiome technology, scientists have harnessed the metabolic potential of probiotics to synthesize L-DOPA which is the first line treatment to treat Parkinson’s disease. They manipulated the bacteria to synthesize a consistent source of medicine inside the gut of patient and the preclinical trials have demonstrated its safety and efficacy.
For medical treatments, the use of genetic engineering is not a new thing. From detoxifying the excess ammonia to cancer therapies, bacteria is being exploited to fit the needs. Likewise, the novel strain of probiotics E.coli Nissle 1917 has been used to synthesize L-DOPA, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
L-DOPA is a dopamine precursor and a gold standard treatment for this disease. The oral use of L-DOPA by taking pills is reducing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like stiffness, tremors and the slowness of movement.
The initial use of L-DOPA causes nausea and vomiting but the prolonged use of L-DOPA causes motor fluctuations and involuntary movements. After using for years, it results in the lack of continuous delivery of drug to brain.
To tackle with the problem, the researchers have harnessed the bacteria that produce L-DOPA in the gut and discovered that the drug is consistently delivered to the brain via the blood. The gene is being inserted into the genome of E.coli Nissle 1917, which then expressed the gene and L-DOPA is being synthesized in gut and then it is transported to brain via blood.
To analyze this new way of drug delivery approach, it is being tested in animal models and the results showed consistency in levels of L-DOPA levels in blood plasma. In the same way, the levels of dopamine are also steady in brain without any undesirable variations.
It is also being found that L-DOPA bacterial live biotherapeutics not only improved motor, cerebral related cognitive tasks but also improved the social interactions in the mouse model.
Now-a-days scientists are using this microbiome based drug delivery technology to treat other CNS-related co-morbidities like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and depression. They are also in process of initiating clinical testing of this novel gut microbiome based live therapeutic technology after FDA approval.
Rabia Warraich, MS Industrial Biotechnology
Atta-ur-rehman School of Applied Biosciences, NUST