Washington: In a bid to come up with new ways to fight obesity, scientists have now have programmed bacteria to generate a anti-obesity molecule in the gut.
The molecule, through normal metabolism, becomes a hunger-suppressing lipid, and in the study, mice that drank water laced with the programmed bacteria ate less, had lower body fat and staved off diabetes, even when fed a high-fat diet, offering a potential weight-loss strategy for humans.
Sean Davies, Ph.D said that the microbial medicine would be low maintenance, and his goal was to produce therapeutic bacteria that live in the gut for six months or a year, providing sustained drug delivery. This is in contrast to weight-loss drugs that typically need to be taken at least daily, and people tend not to take their medications as directed over time. "So we need strategies that deliver the drug without requiring the patient to remember to take their pills every few hours," said Davies.
For a therapeutic molecule, the researchers at Vanderbilt University selected N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs), which are produced in the small intestine after a meal and are quickly converted into N-acyl-ethanolamines (NAEs), potent appetite-suppressing lipids. They altered the genes of a strain of probiotic bacteria so it would make NAPEs, and then added the bacteria to the drinking water of a strain of mice that, fed a high-fat diet, develop obesity, signs of diabetes and fatty livers.
Compared to mice who received plain water or water containing control, non-programmed bacteria, the mice drinking the NAPE-making bacteria gained 15 percent less weight over the eight weeks of treatment. In addition, their livers and glucose metabolism were better than in the control mice. The mice that received the therapeutic bacteria remained lighter and leaner than control mice for up to 12 weeks after treatment ended.
The study is due to be presented at the 249th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).