Scientists are changing the genes of gutbacteria in living mice

Editing bacteria genes using the guts of lactating mice is important in protecting against osteoporosis in humans and in a mouse model of human disease

The ability to modify the genes of specificbacteria in the guts of live mice has been difficult before, because of the complexity of this environment. The tool was able to edit over 90% of an E. coli strain colonising mice guts, with other work showing the tool could be used to edit genes in pathogenic bacterial species and strains. It is hoped that with further research this technique could be adapted to work in humans, potentially altering bacteria associated with disease.

The next step for Duportet and his colleagues is to develop mouse models with microbiome-driven diseases to measure whether specific gene edits have a beneficial impact on their health.

During breastfeeding bones are stripped of calcium, while levels of oestrogen — which normally helps keep them healthy — drop off precipitously. This makes bones vulnerable, but why they don’t break down at this time is a mystery. Now, a team has identified a hormone produced in lactating mice that promotes the build up of bones, keeping them strong during milk production. Injecting this hormone into injured mice helped their bones heal faster, and the team hopes that their finding could ultimately help treat bone-weakening conditions like osteoporosis in humans.

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