Researchers to use CRISPR gene-editing to develop microbiome supplements for malnourished kids

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / TLFurrer
© Getty Images / TLFurrer

Related tags microbiome Nutrition Children

A collaboration between MilliporeSigma and Washington University in St. Louis seeks to explore the differences between gut microbiomes of healthy and malnourished children, and then restore any imbalances using optimized supplements.

The two-year collaboration will see Washington University’s Dr. Jeffrey Gordon use MilliporeSigma's CRISPR genome-editing technology to potentially modify sequences in the DNA of microbes isolated from human gut microbiome samples.

The results will help Dr Gordon and his collaborators gain new insights into the functions and nutritional needs of the microbes.

“Development of the gut microbiome is disrupted in severely malnourished children, leaving them with immature communities compared with healthy children,”​ said Udit Batra, CEO, MilliporeSigma in a press release.

“Our collaboration with the leading expert in the study of the human microbiome, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, will focus on how to repair and reconstitute a normal microbiome in malnourished children. Using our foundational genome-editing technology, we will continue to form collaborations with the global scientific community to explore how to develop exciting new treatments for many diseases.”

Find, delete and replace…

© Getty Images / ANNECORDON

CRISPR-based genomic scissors are revealing new possibilities in medicine and biotechnology. Similar to a word processing program that finds, deletes and replaces words or letters, CRISPR RNA-protein complexes search for certain DNA sequences in a cell, cut them and allow the cell to paste in new DNA information.

The collaboration between MilliporeSigma and Dr Gordon’s group will seek to edit the sequence of DNA in microbes cultured from human gut microbiome samples.

“Our shared goal is to apply gene-editing technology to further understand the mechanisms by which beneficial human gut microbes promote healthy growth in children,”​ said Dr Gordon. “By marrying this technology with our preclinical models, we can decipher how gut microbes become established in the developing gut, what nutrients are necessary to sustain those microbes and how gut microbial communities influence muscle and bone growth, maturation of our immune systems and metabolic health.

Dr Gordon added: “Development of a healthy gut community is linked to the healthy growth of infants and children. Results obtained from this collaboration should aid our ongoing efforts to devise new, safe and culturally acceptable ways to repair the developing gut communities in malnourished children or children at risk of malnutrition.

“This knowledge will facilitate development of new types of microbiota-directed foods, composed of naturally occurring ingredients that increase the representation and beneficial functions of naturally occurring bacterial strains in the immature gut communities of these children.”

Commenting on the news, the scientific committee for the International Probiotics Association (IPA), told us: “This seems to be quite a more targeted situation and there are various things in play here: Understanding the role of the microbiota in (under) nutrition, and then trying to adapt the microbial genome to a more healthy one. In a way the latter is of course what we are doing when we consume probiotics; that is providing an additional genome.”

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