Probiotics are the bacteria and microbes that are good for your gut. A probiotic is usually referred to as the “good” or “helpful” germ. Such microbes are regularly added to dairy products in order to help improve gut health.
Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG, or LGG is the most studied probiotic bacterium in the world. It is studied for various properties including its use in dairy products. The issue is, that this probiotic doesn’t utilize the lactose (carbohydrate present in milk and dairy products) and casein. This is why it doesn’t thrive in the product thus one has to add the probiotic regularly to the product.
Scientists have tried editing the genome of the probiotic for such properties. However, genetically modified organisms have their own restrictions. They can not be used in human food due to legal and social issues. The only way out is one that doesn’t involve gene editing.
Thanks to the researchers at University of Helsinki, Finland and Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic engineering, Pakistan features have been successfully added into the probiotic without any gene editing.
How is this probiotic prepared?
The resaerchers used the process of ‘conjugation’ as a tool to add the features. Conjugation is a process in which bacterium transfers its iconic plasmid DNA to other bacteria. Plasmid is a circular DNA that contains the bacterium’s traits and passes it on to other bacteria. The spread is quite rapid in bacterial communities.
The plasmid that contains such traits for LR was obtained from a strain of bacteria called Lactococcus lactis that lives in the same place.
The new probiotic is thus saved from gene editing.
The probiotic can be used in foods without any concerns. Along with this the probiotic needs to be added only once in the dairy products in the production stages.
The new LGG strain can potentially be equipped to grow. In the infant’s gut it will be able to utilize casein and lactose present in the mother’s milk, producing more lactic acid. The lowered pH due to lactic acid makes it hard for gram negative bacteria and pathogens to live there. This way it boosts the gut health.
The paper was published in ‘Applied and Environmental Microbiology’. Nazar Hussain, Muhammad Tariq and Arsalan H Zaidi are the NIBGE Pakistan’s researchers involved in the study.
Bashir Ahmad is a medical student working as a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager for Pakscience, Scientia Pakistan and many other platforms. Tap on the social media links below to connect with him.