Scientists have created a bacterium that can find cells in the bloodstream that cancer tumors have shed and signal the presence of cancer through a simple lab test.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego took advantage of bacteria’s natural ability to grab bits of DNA from other organisms or their surroundings and add those bits to their own genomes.
The scientists designed a bacterium that would pick up DNA from a gene known as KRAS. Mutations of the KRAS gene are common in many forms of cancer. They also designed the bug to become resistant to a specific antibiotic.
In a test using mice, the new bacterium latched onto and incorporated KRAS DNA. When blood samples from the mice were spread onto antibiotic plates, the synthetic bacteria thrived instead of dying. The result indicated the KRAS gene was present and the patient had cancer.
The particular protocol was created to test for colon cancer. However, the same method can be adjusted to test for many other malignancies.
TRENDPOST: While promising relative ease as a diagnostic tool, this method will take longer than usual to roll out.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will take some convincing before permitting synthetic bacteria to be turned loose in the human body. Also, for every new diagnostic bug created to find a different form of cancer, a separate clinical trial will possibly be needed.