Drugs for Your Gut Microbiome are on the Horizon
Those drugs in your cabinet? They’re designed to treat only half of you. The other half — the trillions of microbes throughout your body — haven’t historically interested drug makers.
But as scientists learn more about the microbiome’s role in conditions ranging from allergies to anxiety to cancer, they’re increasingly interested in drugging its constituents. Two teams of US scientists have already tested those drugs in mice, and pharmaceutical companies are paying close attention.
The hope is that by delivering drugs to the microbiome, researchers will be able to treat or prevent some of our most intractable diseases.
Today there are crude ways to medicate the microbiome. Antibiotics kill bacteria broadly; probiotics add additional bacteria in. The gut drugs under development, on the other hand, are precisely targeted and nonlethal. They don’t aim to change the number of microbes, but rather their behavior.
Eating red meat, for instance, increases a person’s risk of heart disease in part because of the gut microbes. They convert a chemical in red meat (and eggs and dairy), called choline, into a chemical called trimethylamine (TMA). TMA becomes trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, which can cause hardening of arteries and increased heart attack risk.
No one has studied that process more than Dr. Stanley Hazen, a physician and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. And after years of research, his team decided to try to disrupt it… Read More>>