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Meet The Researcher Whose Fake-Poop Project Could Save Your Life

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Waverunner, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

    It's interesting to see, that government doesn't do anything to develop drugs but does everything to prevent it. Slowing down or destroying innovation is one of the few things, government is really good at. These scientists work on gut microbes. Their aim is to offer a lab produced treatment for patients who could benefit from healthy microbes (IBD -> especially UC, IBS, c. difficile infection etc.). The current alternative is a microbiome transplant which includes all kinds of risks because it's not standardized. Even more problematic is the fact, that most microbiome transplants are done at home, because doctors are too scared to supervise it. Do these microbiome transplants help? There is no doubt about it, the success rates are astounding and often superior to standard drug treatment. Now what's the problem? The problem is, that scientists suffer from huge regulatory burden.

    In this case, although the scientists only work with bacteria, that are present in every human, they are forced to sterilize everything they produce. While every citizen can flush the toilet, they have to cook this cra* up. They only can do this at night, because the lab and everything around it gets turned into a disaster area because of the smell. Are pharma companies interested? Not really, because in the end it could turn out to be a cheap treatment that actually cures diseases and that is clearly something they don't like. Here's the full story:

    Done with your lunch? Good, here we go: You may know that implanting feces from healthy people into sick people can treat the deadly gastrointestinal infection caused by the bacteriumClostridium difficile. But Emma Allen-Vercoe and her colleagues at the University of Guelph in Ontario believe that they can improve on this wholesale transplantation strategy. They’re working to tailor mixtures of gut microbes for individual patients. Unfortunately, these bacteria are finicky and don’t grow well in petri dishes, so her team makes artificial poop.
    PopSci: What’s the special recipe for fake feces?
    Emma Allen-Vercoe: It contains things like the indigestible cellulose that’s left after a meal has passed through your digestive tract and down to your distal gut, the end of the line for digestion. It’s pretty nasty-looking. It’s a brown sludge, it’s got lumps of starch, and it’s kind of gloopy. It doesn’t look or smell very appetizing.
    PS: How do you turn that sludge into a fecal transplant?
    EAV: Robogut. Robogut is made of six big beakers full of that sludge that are warmed to body temperature. And we add the bacteria from a small amount of human feces. Since oxygen is poison to anaerobic gut bacteria, each vessel is sealed to make it airtight, while sensors monitor temperature and acidity.
    PS: What’s the worst part about working with synthetic poop?
    EAV: Because of regulations, we can’t just flush the waste down the toilet. So we have to sterilize it by cooking it at a very high temperature and then throw it out. That means we have to do it at night when no one is there, because the whole building starts to smell like poop.
    PS: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned from your research?
    EAV: That microbes are not the enemy. Within the next 20 years, we’ll be moving away from this idea that pathogens cause most disease. We’ll be looking at diseases that are brought on by a breakdown in the microbial ecosystem—of an imbalance in the good microbes that already live in your body.
    PS: What keeps you up at night?
    EAV: Because governments are making it very difficult to get the medical supervision for a fecal transplant, there’s this sort of underground culture of people doing them on each other, just getting the information off the Internet and then transplanting without any supervision. With no proper surveillance, they could be doing far more harm than good. I am terrified for them.
    This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Popular Science. See more stories from the magazine here.
    Little Bluestem, Xandoff and maryb like this.

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