Sunday, December 23, 2012


Human gastrointestinal tract harbors a variety of species of micro organisms which are supposed to help maintain the health with minimum vulnerability to many infectious diseases, especially those entering via the oral route.The concept of pro-biotics and pre-biotics and their role in nurturing the intestinal flora are more or less established and there are thousands of foods in the market containing these beneficial ingredients in processed foods. In spite of many claims made regarding specific health benefits of these food ingredients, many such claims are being disapproved by authorities in different countries for want of confirmatory evidence using human subjects, as most data are generated with animal systems. All said and done it can be safely assumed that most bacteria that reside in human guts, especially the lactic acid bacteria, are beneficial to every one, at least for keeping in check many harmful microorganisms co-existing with them that can cause serious diseases. Some of the disorders related to stomach and intestine are considered genetic and among these Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBD) poses enormous challenge to medical fraternity in treating it. Now comes a report which suggests that IBD can be cured using a genetically modified Lactic acid bacterial strains that can produce the anti inflammatory protein Elafin capable of countering the effect of IBD. Here are further details about this innovative approach in IBD treatment.  

"Using non-pathogenic bacteria found naturally in the intestine and dairy food, scientists from Inserm and Inra have designed modified bacteria to produce Elafin, a human protein which is known for its anti-inflammatory proprieties.  Their breakthrough has provided new hope for individuals suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases, known as IBD, (specifically Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis). They believe that administering this protein directly into the intestine could protect against inflammatory attacks and restore intestinal equilibrium and its functions. During inflammatory outbreaks, IBDs are chiefly characterised by abdominal pain, frequent diarrhoea (sometimes with bleeding) or even disorders in the anal area (fissure, abscesses). Different avenues are being explored to explain the origin of IBDs, including the role of genetic or environmental factors. The intestinal flora seems to play an important role in the outbreak of inflammation, although little is known about it. Identifying an effective treatment is also at the heart of the investigations. Although Elafin is found naturally in the intestine to protect it against attacks, it disappears in patients suffering from IBDs. To design the modified bacteria, the human Elafin gene, isolated in collaboration with a team from the Institut Pasteau, was introduced in Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus casei, two food-grade bacteria found in dairy products. When administered orally to mice, the human Elafin-producing bacteria are found a few hours later on the surface of the intestine where they deliver the anti-inflammatory protein. In different mice models of chronic or acute intestinal inflammation, oral treatment using these Elafin-producing bacteria provided significant protection of the intestine and decreased inflammatory symptoms. Elafin expressed by these bacteria also protects cultured human intestinal cell lines from inflammatory outbreaks similar to those observed in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Elafin produced in this way restores the equilibrium of intestinal mucus by reducing inflammation and accelerating cell-healing processes".

IBD can be a chronic disease and invariably treatments being offered to day do not cure the disease as most of them are palliative in nature. The studies which brought about the role of Elafin protein in the development of the disease have shown the way forward and it is up to the medical community to make use of these findings for the benefit of those suffering from this painful disease. Use of human Elafin gene for modifying Lactobacillus casei and Lactococcus lactii may pose a challenge as it involves high quality biotechnological techniques and till such time when their production becomes feasible, the research may stay within the laboratory where it was developed. Pharma companies may have to be sensitized and taken into confidence for production of lyophilized GM bacterial preparations for regular treatment of patients suffering from IBD.


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