Synthetic Biology and the Gut Microbiome
Bennett, Matthew R.
The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining human health. Functions performed by gastrointestinal microbes range from regulating metabolism to modulating immune and nervous system development. Scientists have attempted to exploit this importance through the development of engineered probiotics that are capable of producing and delivering small molecule therapeutics within the gut. However, existing synthetic probiotics are simplistic and fail to replicate the complexity and adaptability of native homeostatic mechanisms. In this review, the ways in which the tools and approaches of synthetic biology have been applied to improve the efficacy of therapeutic probiotics, and the ways in which they might be applied in the future is discussed. Simple devices, such as a bistable switches and integrase memory arrays, have been successfully implemented in the mammalian gut, and models for targeted delivery in this environment have also been developed. In the future, it will be necessary to introduce concepts such as logic-gating and biocontainment mechanisms into synthetic probiotics, as well as to expand the collection of relevant biosensors. Ideally, this will bring us closer to a reality in which engineered therapeutic microbes will be able to accurately diagnose and effectively respond to a variety of disease states.
biosensors; engineered microbes; engineered probiotics; microbiome therapeutics