A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go to work

Jan 22, 2007

There will soon be no more bitter pills to swallow, thanks to new research by University of Leeds scientists (UK): a spoonful of sugar will be all we need for our bodies to make their own medicine.

Professor Simon Carding of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences has adapted a bacteria in our own bodies to make it produce a treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Bacteria and viruses have been used before to deliver drugs in this way, but Professor Carding has solved the major problem with this kind of treatment: he uses a sugar to 'switch' the bacteria on and off. By eating the sugar, a patient will set the medicine to work and then can end the treatment simply by stopping consumption of the sugar.

"Current bacteria and virus delivery systems produce their drugs non-stop, but for many treatments there is a narrow concentration range at which drugs are beneficial," said Professor Carding. "Outside of this, the treatment can be counterproductive and make the condition worse. It's vitally important to be able to control when and how much of the drug is administered and we believe our discovery will provide that control."

Professor Carding has modified one of the trillions of bacteria in the human gut so that it will produce human growth factors which help repair the layer of cells lining the colon, so reducing inflammation caused by IBD. But he's also adapted the bacteria so it only activates in the presence of a plant sugar called xylan that is found in tree bark. Xylan is naturally present in food in low concentrations, so by taking it in higher quantities, a patient will be able to produce their own medicine as and when they need it.

"The human gut has a huge number of bacteria, and this treatment simply adapts what's there naturally to treat the disease," said Professor Carding. "We're already looking at using the same technique for colorectal cancer, as we believe we could modify the bacteria to produce factors that will reduce tumour growth. Treatment of diseases elsewhere in the body might also be possible as most things present in the gut can get taken into the blood stream."

Source: University of Leeds

Explore further: Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New research signals big future for quantum radar

44 minutes ago

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

Living in the genetic comfort zone

2 hours ago

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

3 hours ago

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

Key facts on US 'open Internet' regulation

3 hours ago

A landmark ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission seeks to enshrine the notion of an "open Internet," or "net neutrality." Here are key points:

Recommended for you

Sall4 is required for DNA repair in stem cells

35 minutes ago

A protein that helps embryonic stem cells (ESCs) retain their identity also promotes DNA repair, according to a study in The Journal of Cell Biology. The findings raise the possibility that the protein, Sall4, ...

Desmoplakin's tail gets the message

37 minutes ago

Cells control the adhesion protein desmoplakin by modifying the tail end of the protein, and this process goes awry in some patients with arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, according to a study in The Journal of ...

How animals survive Norwegian winter nights

54 minutes ago

Norwegian mammals and birds have many different methods of surviving long, intense winter nights. A biologist from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) University Museum reveals their ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.