Bacteria programmed to find tumours

Bacteria programmed to spot tumours in the liver have been shown off at the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver.

Tal Danino, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described how he programmed the bacteria with genetic code. The system could be developed to identify other cancers, he said. So far the research has only been tested on mice. The results will be published in Science Translational Medicine.

The mice are fed pre-programmed probiotic bacteria – a similar type to that found in some health-promoting yogurts. The bacteria produce enzymes when they encounter a tumour which will, in turn, change the colour of urine. So far, the system has proved accurate at detecting liver cancer.

“Liver cancer is hard to detect, and there really is a need for new technology to help spot it,” Mr Danino told the BBC ahead of his talk. Via Bacteria programmed to find tumours.

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