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Probiotics as Drug Delivery Systems

September 30, 2016

The gut contains trillions of “good” bacteria that play a major role in our health. Researchers now think that our gut microflora may be linked to a number of conditions ranging from digestive disorders, allergies, heart disease to depression. Probiotics are live microorganisms introduced into the body for their beneficial qualities. Probiotics have been used for many years and are conventionally incorporated into consumer goods and dietary supplements. An interesting area where the use of probiotics is being experimented is in drug delivery. Researchers are now investigating the use of microbes as drug delivery systems.

A recent research led by Sylvain Martel, Ph.D., Director of the Polytechnique Montréal NanoRobotics Laboratory, and funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has shown that magnetic bacteria may be used as drug delivery vehicles for delivering tumor-fighting drugs. Nanoparticles are currently being used as carriers to deliver drugs to the tumor site. However, nanocarriers rely on the body’s circulatory system to carry them to the tumor and a large percentage of them are filtered out of the body before reaching the tumor site. Additionally, differences in pressure between tumor tissue and the surrounding tissue prevent nanocarriers from penetrating deep into the hypoxic zones of tumors, where active cell division occurs at low oxygen content.

Efforts to produce a nanoparticle that could travel to hypoxic zones in tumors resulted in the discovery of bacteria that may already have this capacity.  Magnetococcus marinus or MC-1 cells thrive in low-oxygen environments and through the use of a multi-step navigation system involving propelling magnetic carriers with magnetic fields of MRI scanners, these bacteria can be manipulated to more effectively deliver drugs to tumors.

Although many technologies are still in preclinical stages, microbes in the future may have the potential to provide innovative solutions to treat a multitude of diseases, possibly even Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer.

If you have any information needs regarding probiotics and its latest developments in the area, please contact TCI for further discussion.

Makaravine Duong
Research Analyst
Drug Delivery
(703) 531-0276