Yogurt, it turns out, might not just be good for you from a nutritional point of view. In fact, engineered yogurt bacteria could make spotting cancer as easy as taking a pregnancy test.
Technology Review reports that a team of researchers from MIT is developing an engineered yogurt which includes synthetic molecules that interact with colorectal cancer cells. The long molecules are broken down into smaller pieces by enzymes produced by the cancer, and subsequently excreted by the body via the kidneys.
But the team has also developed a paper test — a bit like a pregnancy test — that identifies the presence of the broken-down molecules in a human’s urine. Bingo: cancer identification, with only a healthy breakfast and a visit to the bathroom required.
So far, the molecules have been injected into mice and shown to work in identifying colorectal cancer and liver fibrosis. The long-term hope is that the technique could reduce the need for colonoscopies — which are both time-consuming and, as anyone’s who’s had one will know, rather painful. Chocolate froyo, anyone? [Technology Review]