Engineered bacteria can detect cancer DNA

Engineered bacteria can detect cancer DNA

Tumors are sometimes cancerous but this does not mean that tumors and cancers are the same. A tumor develops when a lesion or lump is formed in your body due to abnormal cellular growth. In the case of cancer, this cellular growth is uncontrollable and it spreads in the body. Both can be detected with an MRI scan. It is important to understand that not all tumors are cancerous. There are benign tumors where the growth is limited to certain part of the body. A tumor becomes cancer when it is malignant. This means that the primary growth can generate several secondary growths thus invading vital parts of your body and spreading everywhere.

A study was recently published in the journal Science which highlighted that engineered bacteria detect the presence of tumor DNA in the colon of mice. The researchers targeted a specific trait that certain bacteria have like the ability to take free-floating DNA from its environment into itself. They then engineered a certain bacterium, Acinetobacter baylyi, to specifically ingest the DNA shed by colorectal cancer tumors. The logic being if a person has cancerous cells in their body, the engineered bacteria would survive and be able to signal the presence of those cells. If someone were cancer free, then the bacteria wouldn't survive to signal back, essentially producing a negative result.

This technology presents a non-invasive diagnostic tool that could identify cancer or pre-cancerous DNA to enable doctors to treat patients before cancer spreads or worsens. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women. Polyps containing cancer cells can be lodged in the colon wall for years. Detecting colorectal cancer early before it spreads, increases its chances of being cured.

Science, 2023

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