In situ biomolecule production by bacteria; a synthetic biology approach to medicine


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Abstract

The ability to modify existing microbiota at different sites presents enormous potential for local or indirect management of various diseases. Because bacteria can be maintained for lengthy periods in various regions of the body, they represent a platform with enormous potential for targeted production of biomolecules, which offer tremendous promise for therapeutic and diagnostic approaches for various diseases. While biological medicines are currently limited in the clinic to patient administration of exogenously produced biomolecules from engineered cells, in situ production of biomolecules presents enormous scope in medicine and beyond.The slow pace and high expense of traditional research approaches has particularly hampered the development of biological medicines. It may be argued that bacterial-based medicine has been “waiting” for the advent of enabling technology. We propose that this technology is Synthetic Biology, and that the wait is over. Synthetic Biology facilitates a systematic approach to programming living entities and/or their products, using an approach to Research and Development (R&D) that facilitates rapid, cheap, accessible, yet sophisticated product development. Full engagement with the Synthetic Biology approach to R&D can unlock the potential for bacteria as medicines for cancer and other indications.In this review, we describe how by employing Synthetic Biology, designer bugs can be used as drugs, drug-production factories or diagnostic devices, using oncology as an exemplar for the concept of in situ biomolecule production in medicine.Graphical abstractExample regions of the body where bacteria can be induced to colonise. Sample conditions representing treatment targets for local bacteria are indicated for each location.

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