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Engineered Bacteria Effectively Target Tumors, Enabling Tumor Imaging Potential In Mice

January 26, 2012

Tumor-targeted bioluminescent bacteria have been shown for the first time to provide accurate 3D images of tumors in mice, further advancing the potential for targeted cancer drug delivery, according to a study published in the Jan. 25 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.

The specially engineered probiotic bacteria, like those found in many yoghurts, were intravenously injected into mice with tumors, after which the researchers took full body bioluminescent images. The 3D images revealed information about the number and location of the bacteria, to the level of precisely revealing where within the tumour the bacteria were living, providing much more information on the interaction of bacteria and tumors than was previously available using similar two-dimensional imaging methods.

According to the authors, led by Mark Tangney of University College Cork in Ireland, “before now, researchers used luminescence to provide an approximation of where a test organism was within the body, and would then follow up with multiple further experiments using different techniques to try to find a precise location”. This new research suggests that such bacteria can be engineered to contain diagnostic or therapeutic agents that would be produced specifically within the tumor for targeted treatment.

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