Researchers at Vanderbilt University have utilized bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut to inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance, and other negative effects of a high-fat diet in mice, according to redOrbit.
The team used a safe bacterial strain called E. coli Nissle 1917, which has been used as probiotic treatment for diarrhea since its discovery nearly 100 years ago.
They genetically modified the strain to produce a liquid compound called NAPE, which is normally synthesized in the small intestine in response to feeding. NAPE is rapidly converted to NAE, a compound that reduces both food intake and weight gain.
“NAPE seemed like a great compound to try — since it’s something that the host normally produces,” senior researcher Sean Davies said.
The researchers added NAPE-producing bacteria to the drinking water of a group of mice that ate a high-fat diet for eight weeks. Mice that received the NAPE-producing bacteria had lower food intake, body fat, insulin resistance, and fatty liver when compared to a group of mice receiving the control bacteria.
Researchers found that the protective effects of the NAPE-producing bacteria lasted for as long as four weeks after the bacteria was removed from the drinking water. And even after 12 weeks, the mice that received the NAPE-producing bacteria strain had much lower body weight and body fat when compared to the control mice.
“We still haven’t achieved our ultimate goal, which would be to do one treatment and then never have to administer the bacteria again,” Davies said. “Six weeks is pretty long to have active bacteria, and the animals are still less obese 12 weeks out.
“This paper provides a proof of concept. Clearly, we can get enough bacteria to persist in the gut and have a sustained effect. We would like for that effect to last longer.”
Davies has had a long-standing interest in using probiotic bacteria to deliver drugs to the gut in a sustained manner, eliminating the need for pharmaceutical drugs that treat chronic illnesses. In 2007, he received a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award to pursue his idea.
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