We as humans are a very genetically diverse species. But what if we could find microorganisms that have over 150 times more genes right within our own guts. Scientists believe that human microbiomes is the key to treating diseases in the future and some analysts believe that the field of human microbiome market will reach $3.2 billion by 2024.
Lack of microbiome diversity has shown to cause diseases like MS, diabetes, and asthma. So microbiomes have demonstrated themselves to be a key component of our health. To better understand these links, many projects launched in the past few years have focused on mapping microbial genesthat are associated with disease. For example, there are certain microbiomes that make cancer drugs ineffective whereas others are actually necessary to make these drugs work. Thus, a patient’s microbiome makeup directly correlates to their survival chances. So the next step in the Microbiome market is modifying the microbiome to work for the patient.
One older technique of doing this is traced back to China thousands of years ago where they would transplant whole microbial communities to treat diarrhea also known as Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). A more defined approach is where beneficial bacterial strains are delivered, alive, to the patient’s gut.
In the UK, a company called Microbiotica transfers non-pathogenic strains of C. difficile to fight C. difficileinfections, IBD, and cancer. Even though these approaches have drawn a lot of attention to the field, some scientists argue that the bacteria we ingest are not as well adapted to living in our gut as those that have been living there for years thus are not effective.
In France, an opposite approach is used by Enterome where drugs target specific bacteria leaving the rest to the gut microbiome intact. This approach is aimed at treating Chron’s diseaseand cancer.
Another approach is using bacteriophages to kill specific bacteria strains. Eligo Bioscience takes it a step further by using the bacteriophages to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 into the bacteria to kill it by cutting the DNA of the strain carrying the disease only.
Finally, certain companies like Blue Turtle Bio engineer bacteria to make them produce drugs directly within the human gut.
Since this is a rather new field, there are newly emerging companies along with groups who do not believe in the practice. Personally, I do believe in this practice because there is already a strong correlation between our immune system and specific microbiome strands. With microbiome treatments comes microbiome diagnostics to determine which patients can benefit from these therapies. Thus a high number of approaches will initially fail to treat disease. So far, gut infections and inflammatory diseases seem to be strongly correlated to the gut microbiota, so that will be an area where more research should be applied. A crucial challenge for the field will be to move from correlation to causation, and a lot of research is still needed for that.