If you have an asthma attack or a heart attack, you probably have a gut bacteria problem.
You can’t treat it with antibiotics or steroids.
But a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard have found a way to create plants that could help fight the disease.
Their work is the latest example of scientists using biology to tackle the microbial problem.
“We know that the gut microbiome is incredibly important to our health,” said lead researcher Dr. Matthew E. Brown.
“It’s a lot of fun to be in the lab and watch what happens in your gut as you’re eating, drinking, breathing, and interacting with your body.”
In order to find ways to do this in a way that is safe and that is good for us, we need to get a better understanding of how that microbial community actually interacts with our cells.
“Brown and his colleagues have identified a type of bacteria called Clostridium difficile that can cause the gut inflammation that leads to asthma.
In a lab setting, this bacteria was able to kill off the beneficial bacteria in a plant called S. aureus.
It could then produce a toxin that could kill off other beneficial bacteria.
“We thought that, as the plant grows, the bacteria will go in and try to get out.””
That compound is an active ingredient in several different types of plants,” Brown said.
“We thought that, as the plant grows, the bacteria will go in and try to get out.”
The research team grew a plant that mimicked the natural gut flora.
They added Nuciferin to that plant to create a plant defense compound.
They then fed the plant to a mouse that had an asthma outbreak.
In the mouse that was given NucIFERin, the mice were less likely to develop asthma.
The plant defense material also caused the mice to have fewer allergies to certain compounds in their food, as well as less inflammation.
“The plant was really good at preventing the development of asthma,” Brown explained.
“In the wild, it’s quite difficult for the gut bacteria to recognize and attack specific plants.
But we found that when you add Nucifierin to the plant, you can really make it recognize that it has a very specific role in the gut.”
To make this work, the researchers took advantage of the fact that bacteria living in the guts of animals also produce compounds that can damage plants.
This plant defense materials are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing them to reach the brain where they are toxic to plants.
“When you add this toxin, it gets in the blood and it reaches the brain,” Brown noted.
“The brain gets hit hard, and that affects the brain chemistry.
The brain chemistry of the brain is really, really critical to learning.””
When a plant has an allergy to something, the plant doesn’t get to react with the plant,” he added.
“And then the plant can’t learn to react.
That’s a really powerful example of how the brain has to be activated to learn.”
Nucifierins are already being used to treat allergies and asthma, and Brown said the team has found that they can work as a treatment for the disease as well.
“So it’s a natural antibiotic, it has anti-inflammatory properties, it helps with asthma, it can be used as a tool for prevention,” he said.
Brown said the next step is to work on other types of plant defenses.
He and his fellow researchers are working to create another compound that will kill off Clostres.
“One of the exciting things about the plant defense is that it is very versatile,” he noted.
“It can work in many different situations.
One thing we’re really interested in is the ability to use it to combat many different types or types of infections,” Brown continued.
“A lot of what we’re looking at is how we can use the plant-derived compounds to help us in the field.”
“We really want to make sure that the plant defenses that we’re using are actually good for the environment,” Brown added.
“There are some important questions that we want to answer.
One is whether this toxin is good or bad for the plants that it’s targeting.
If it is bad, how much of it is in the plant?
The other question is, does it harm the plant or not?
So we’re hoping that we can get some answers from that.”