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  • You may not realize this,

  • but there are more bacteria in your body than stars in our entire galaxy.

  • This fascinating universe of bacteria inside of us

  • is an integral part of our health,

  • and our technology is evolving so rapidly

  • that today we can program these bacteria like we program computers.

  • Now, the diagram that you see here,

  • I know it looks like some kind of sports play,

  • but it is actually a blueprint of the first bacterial program I developed.

  • And like writing software, we can print and write DNA

  • into different algorithms and programs inside of bacteria.

  • What this program does is produces fluorescent proteins

  • in a rhythmic fashion

  • and generates a small molecule

  • that allows bacteria to communicate and synchronize,

  • as you're seeing in this movie.

  • The growing colony of bacteria that you see here

  • is about the width of a human hair.

  • Now, what you can't see is that our genetic program

  • instructs these bacteria to each produce small molecules,

  • and these molecules travel between the thousands of individual bacteria

  • telling them when to turn on and off.

  • And the bacteria synchronize quite well at this scale,

  • but because the molecule that synchronizes them together can only travel so fast,

  • in larger colonies of bacteria, this results in traveling waves

  • between bacteria that are far away from each other,

  • and you can see these waves going from right to left across the screen.

  • Now, our genetic program relies on a natural phenomenon

  • called quorum sensing,

  • in which bacteria trigger coordinated and sometimes virulent behaviors

  • once they reach a critical density.

  • You can observe quorum sensing in action in this movie,

  • where a growing colony of bacteria only begins to glow

  • once it reaches a high or critical density.

  • Our genetic program

  • continues producing these rhythmic patterns of fluorescent proteins

  • as the colony grows outwards.

  • This particular movie and experiment we call The Supernova,

  • because it looks like an exploding star.

  • Now, besides programming these beautiful patterns,

  • I wondered, what else can we get these bacteria to do?

  • And I decided to explore how we can program bacteria

  • to detect and treat diseases in our bodies like cancer.

  • One of the surprising facts about bacteria

  • is that they can naturally grow inside of tumors.

  • This happens because typically tumors

  • are areas where the immune system has no access,

  • and so bacteria find these tumors

  • and use them as a safe haven to grow and thrive.

  • We started using probiotic bacteria

  • which are safe bacteria that have a health benefit,

  • and found that when orally delivered to mice,

  • these probiotics would selectively grow inside of liver tumors.

  • We realized that the most convenient way

  • to highlight the presence of the probiotics,

  • and hence, the presence of the tumors,

  • was to get these bacteria to produce a signal

  • that would be detectable in the urine,

  • and so we specifically programmed these probiotics

  • to make a molecule that would change the color of your urine

  • to indicate the presence of cancer.

  • We went on to show that this technology

  • could sensitively and specifically detect liver cancer,

  • one that is challenging to detect otherwise.

  • Now, since these bacteria specifically localize to tumors,

  • we've been programming them to not only detect cancer

  • but also to treat cancer

  • by producing therapeutic molecules from within the tumor environment

  • that shrink the existing tumors,

  • and we've been doing this using quorum sensing programs

  • like you saw in the previous movies.

  • Altogether, imagine in the future taking a programmed probiotic

  • that could detect and treat cancer,

  • or even other diseases.

  • Our ability to program bacteria

  • and program life

  • opens up new horizons in cancer research,

  • and to share this vision, I worked with artist Vik Muniz

  • to create the symbol of the universe,

  • made entirely out of bacteria or cancer cells.

  • Ultimately, my hope is that the beauty and purpose of this microscopic universe

  • can inspire new and creative approaches for the future of cancer research.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

You may not realize this,

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B2 US TED bacteria cancer program detect sensing

【TED】Tal Danino: We can use bacteria to detect cancer (and maybe treat it)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/06/16
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