Engineering the Microbiome to Cure Disease

Residing within the human gut are trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that can impact a variety of chronic human ailments, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Numerous diseases are associated with imbalance or dysfunction in gut microbiome. Even in diseases that don’t involve the microbiome, gut microflora provide an important point of access that allows modification of many physiological systems.

Modifying to remedy, perhaps even cure these conditions, has generated substantial interest, leading to the development of live bacterial therapeutics (LBTs). One idea behind LBTs is to engineer bacterial hosts, or chassis, to produce therapeutics able to repair or restore healthy microbial function and diversity.

Existing efforts have primarily focused on using probiotic bacterial strains from the Bacteroides or Lactobacillus families or Escherichia coli that have been used for decades in the lab. However, these efforts have largely fallen short because engineered bacteria introduced into the gut generally do not survive what is fundamentally a hostile environment.

The inability to engraft or even survive in the gut requires frequent re-administration of these bacterial strains and often produces inconsistent effects or no effect at all. The phenomenon is perhaps most apparent in individuals who take probiotics, where these beneficial bacteria are unable to compete with the individual’s native microorganisms and largely disappear quickly.

The lack of engraftment severely limits the use of LBTs for chronic conditions for curative effect or to study specific functions in the gut microbiome,” said Amir Zarrinpar, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a gastroenterologist at UC San Diego Health. “Published human trials using engineered LBTs have demonstrated safety, but still need to demonstrate reversal of disease. We believe this may be due to problems with colonization.

In a proof-of-concept study, published in the August 4, 2022, online issue of Cell , Zarrinpar and colleagues at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report overcoming that hurdle by employing native bacteria in mice as the chassis for delivering transgenes capable of inducing persistent and potentially even curative therapeutic changes in the gut and reversing disease pathologies. Using this method, the group found they can provide long-term therapy in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes.

Source: https://health.ucsd.edu/

Cancer Vaccine Boosted

Scientists at Thomas Jefferson University who are developing a cancer vaccine to prevent recurrences of gastric, pancreatic, esophageal, and colon cancers say they have added a component that would make the vaccine more effective. The change makes the vaccine less prone to being cleared by the immune system before it can generate immunity against the tumor components.

The preclinical studies pave the way for a Phase II clinical trial opening to patients this fall, according to Adam Snook, PhD, assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics and researcher at the NCI-Designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC)—Jefferson Health.

Our data show strong immune responses in mice that might otherwise clear the vaccine, and suggests this approach will be more effective in the human trials we are starting shortly,” he said. “Adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) is a commonly used viral vector for transient delivery of transgenes, primarily for vaccination against pathogen and tumor antigens. However, endemic infections with Ad5 produce virus-specific neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) that limit transgene delivery and constrain target-directed immunity following exposure to Ad5-based vaccines

Indeed, clinical trials have revealed the limitations that virus-specific NAbs impose on the efficacy of Ad5-based vaccines. In that context, the emerging focus on immunological approaches targeting cancer self-antigens or neoepitopes underscores the unmet therapeutic need for more efficacious vaccine vectors.

“Here, we evaluated the ability of a chimeric adenoviral vector (Ad5.F35) derived from the capsid of Ad5 and fiber of the rare adenovirus serotype 35 (Ad35) to induce immune responses to the tumor-associated antigen guanylyl cyclase C (GUCY2C).

In the absence of pre-existing immunity to Ad5, GUCY2C-specific T-cell responses and antitumor efficacy induced by Ad5.F35 were comparable to Ad5 in a mouse model of metastatic colorectal cancer. Furthermore, like Ad5, Ad5.F35 vector expressing GUCY2C was safe and produced no toxicity in tissues with, or without, GUCY2C expression. Importantly, this chimeric vector resisted neutralization in Ad5-immunized mice and by sera collected from patients with colorectal cancer naturally exposed to Ad5.

“These data suggest that Ad5.F35-based vaccines targeting GUCY2C, or other tumor or pathogen antigens, may produce clinically relevant immune responses in more (≥90%) patients compared with Ad5-based vaccines (~50%).”