Scientists Demonstrate Coating of Beneficial Bacteria to Enhance Passage Through Stomach to Intestine

The human digestive tract contains trillions of bacteria, many of which help digest food and fight off harmful bacteria. Recent studies have shown that some of these bacteria may influence, for better or worse, human diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. As scientists have learned more about these bacteria, many have raised the possibility that manipulating these populations, known collectively as the microbiome, could improve human health. Looking toward that future, a team of MIT scientists has developed a strategy for delivering large numbers of beneficial bacterial to the human gut. “Once the microbiome is better understood, we can use this delivery platform to target certain areas and introduce certain species there,” says Ana Jaklenec, Ph.D., a research scientist at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and one of the senior authors of a paper describing this approach published online on September 12, 2016 in Advanced Materials. The article is titled “Layer-by-Layer Encapsulation of Probiotics for Delivery to the Microbiome.” Dr. Jaklenec and colleagues developed a way to coat bacteria with polymer layers that protect them from the acids and bile salts found in the digestive tract. When the microbes reach the intestine, they attach to the intestinal lining and begin reproducing. “The bacteria are delivered and they adhere to the intestinal wall, where they survive much better than noncoated bacteria,” says Koch Institute postdoc Aaron Anselmo, Ph.D., the paper’s first author. Robert Langer, Ph.D., the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute, is also a senior author of the paper. Other authors are postdoc Kevin McHugh, Ph.D., and technical assistant Jamie Webster.
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