Through synthetic biology, a group of 13 students from different careers at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) mixed their knowledge to develop a psychobiotic that helps the treatment of depression and anxiety.

The educational institution reported that students from ITESM Campus Guadalajara participated in the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) in Boston, United States, where they obtained a bronze medal.

The statement said that iGEM is an international competition that began as a course for university students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop cellular devices. Now it’s a competition with almost 300 teams from 30 countries that also includes graduate and high school students and community laboratories.

In order to generate Lactobachill, they combined a probiotic, a bacterium capable of normalizing various processes of the organism and a psychotropic substance (which acts directly in the brain).

The young students, worked based on the premise that there are neurons linked to our brain in the intestine. Cristina Figueroa, member of the team, said that “these neurons together with the microbiota —organisms that help to balance the body— are linked to the regulation of neurological processes such as depression.

When there is a deregulation, it puts the whole body on alert; and we, through genetic modifications, make a construct that will help to modulate this by inhibiting an inflammatory response,” she added.

Lactobachill, she explained, was built using synthetic biology, by genetically modifying a lactobacillus with psychobiotic properties (L. rhamnosus), which can efficiently colonize the intestine.

This microorganism can be used to inhibit the cytokine signals associated with the destabilization of systemic and immune system information and help normalize the gut-brain axis,” she said.

Thus, this intelligent psychobiotic can release an anti-inflammatory molecule that blocks the signaling guide that would later trigger depression and anxiety.

The intensive part of the research was carried out from March to November 2018; however, the work must continue before introducing the Lactobachill in humans, Figueroa said.

Recently, Lactobachill received the Rómulo Garza Prize, awarded by the ITESM to students for innovative research projects. This award is given annually with the objective of recognizing researchers, as well as the results of the research developed by the ITESM community.


Source: La Jornada