CEXS-UPF: Bacteria with learning ability for the treatment of disease

CEXS-UPF: Bacteria with learning ability for the treatment of disease

News from CEXS-UPF

A scientific team led by Ricard Solé, ICREA research professor at UPF, has demonstrated the possibility of designing bacteria that develop associative learning, that is, bacteria that show a conditioned response to a given stimulus.

Just as the Russian researcher Iván Pávlov succeeded in 1901in making his dog salivate with a simply hearing a bell ring, Solé and his colleagues have now created circuits of bacteria that respond to the same classical conditioning. These researchers propose the use of genetically modified bacteria as a way to control the microbiome's response to different stimuli and as a tool to develop new therapies. Since these modified bacteria can create and erase memories and associate different signals with each other, it is possible to get them to learn associations in which, for example, they release a drug in a situation of disease and stop when necessary.

Thanks to the advances in synthetic biology, bacteria capable of producing certain compounds, such as drugs, already exist. The study proves that bacteria will not only be able to produce a drug, but also to decide when to do so. "Those related to the microbiome are often complex diseases that need "smart" bacteria, capable of delivering drugs when conditions require it, but also shut off when the situation improves," says Solé.

More information:
CEXS-UPF website

Reference work:
Macía J, Vidiella B, Solé RV. 2017 Synthetic associative learning in engineered multicellular consortia. J. R. Soc. Interface 20170158.