Genetically Modified Gut Bacteria

2023, Mar 05    

A recent news article that caught my interest discussed how a fecal transplant (also called bacteriotherapy) had been performed to help a patient recover. I have to admit it was a medical aspect I hadn't considered, but the logic does make sense. I started thinking about how this could progress to something more based on the same principals...

Humans have bacteria in the intestinal tract (gut), and in most cases it's a healthy relationship. Supermarket shelves are lined with drinks like Yakult, which contain good bacteria designed to aid in our digestion. The concept of supplementing your gut bacteria is nothing new, but what if it could be taken further?

With how genetically modified crops (and food) are slowly becoming more commonplace throughout the world, what if genetically modified gut bacteria comes a thing? From a progression perspective I could see there being two approaches:

  • Modification of standard gut bacteria to improve efficiency / capability
  • Tailoring of custom gut bacteria to provide new capability (while tied to your DNA)

The first approach is realistically something that will likely become a standard practice in the coming years as from a sales perspective to could be a profit-making machine:

  • Improve the overall digestion (over and above what standard gut bacteria achieves)
  • Improve overall health (by additional capability)
  • Design it so it can't replicate indefinitely (meaning a constant replenishment is required)
  • Profit

The second approach is where things get interesting... While the first approach is great for the masses, it's the tailing of custom gut bacteria that could make the serious revenue (in the same way that fewer upper-class passengers make more profit than larger standard-class passengers).

Imagine having a gut that could better process the food / drink you consume to provide more nutrition in a shorter amount of time, perhaps even allowing more food to be consumed without the associated weight-gain. How about bacteria designed to convert what you eat into a compound of choice (that could promote less fatigue, additional strength, even a longer lifespan). For those with the wealth to afford it, all of the above would be a worthwhile expense.

With the coming years I'm curious to see if this type of genetic manipulation takes place / is released given the potential benefit / impact it could have.