In the battle against cancer, microbes could be the answer


Can your microbiome fight cancer? WIRED Health speaker and Evelo Biosciences CEO Simba Gill is trialing ways to harness microbes against an array of cancers

In 2015, Thomas Gajewski was researching new treatments for cancer when he noticed something unusual in his lab mice. Gajewski is a professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Chicago, and his lab gets its mice from two different suppliers, Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and Taconic Biosciences (TAC). When the scientists implanted small tumours under the skin of the JAX mice, the animals’ immune systems fought the cancer rigorously. The TAC mice, in contrast, would show only a weak immune response. Mix the two sets together in a cage for a few weeks, and the difference was abolished. The TAC mice were able to fight the cancer with the same vigour as the JAX animals.

Gajewski realised that the difference could be explained by discrepancies between the animals’ microbiomes, the teeming mass of bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut of all living creatures. Something in the gut of the JAX mice dramatically improved its ability to deal with cancer, and the effect was transferred to the TAC mice after the two sets swapped bacteria (endearingly, mice eat each other’s poop). The close connection between the gut microbiome and the immune system has only recently been made. Gajewski’s finding pointed to a way to exploit the connection – to improve the body’s resilience by manipulating the gut.

This is the sort of finding that greatly interests Simba Gill, the chief executive of Evelo, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Evelo was established three years ago in order to develop a suite of new medicines based on the understanding that the gut-body network plays a critical role in our biology and immunology. The company has so far raised $100 million; investors include Flagship Pioneering, Google Ventures and Mayo Clinic.

Evelo’s remit goes beyond cancer. The company is currently investigating treatments for multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes, to name a few. This year, Evelo will begin clinical trials of some of its medicines, called monoclonal microbials – “monoclonal” because each medicine harnesses a single microbe strain. It was recently issued a patent for a cancer treatment based on Gajewski’s work. “The core of what we’re doing now is in recognition of the fact that the gut is networked to the rest of the body and drives many of the central aspects of how we fight disease,” Gill says. 

Gill has worked in biotechnology for three decades. After his PhD at King’s College, London, he worked for Celltech in the early days of antibody engineering. Later, he worked at a company that uses stem cells to treat diseases, and spent a decade collaborating with biotech entrepreneur Alejandro Zaffaroni. “I’ve focused my whole career on big, bold platform biotech ideas,” Gill says. “What I mean by platform is a new modality of medicine which has very broad applicability, that can allow for many products to treat diseases in ways which have not otherwise been possible.” In 2015, he joined Flagship Pioneering, a builder and funder of platform biotech start-ups.

For centuries, medical science ignored the trillions of microorganisms that share our bodies – it was the dangerous invaders that needed attention. In the past decade, we have come to appreciate better the role that these microbes play in an array of bodily functions, from digestion and immunity to organ health and even things like mood, sleep and stress. The gut contains 99% of the body’s microbial mass, representing thousands of species. “Humans evolved together with microbes,” says Gill. “What we hypothesised was, because of that reason, it was very likely that there were specific, individual microbial strains which have evolved to act through the gut with the immune system to modulate our systemic biology.” If Evelo could only find these individual strains, they might use them to develop a new class of medicine.

Monoclonal microbials work by commandeering one of the body’s routine immunological processes. The idea is to load a capsule with a single strain – perhaps tens of billions of microorganisms. After the capsule is swallowed, it makes its way to a part of the small intestine that is lined with gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Through the tissue interface, dendritic cells sample the gut and alert the lymphatic system to changes. Depending on which microbe is detected, a specific immune response is hatched. In the case of cancer, Gajewski’s team found that when Bifidobacterium (Bifs) was introduced to the digestive track of a mouse, it boosted the ability of animal’s immune system to attack tumour cells.

Gill admits that a lot of work still needs to be done. “It’s very difficult to find the strains which have the [desired] type of activity,” he says. And while models (mouse and computer) have been encouraging, trials in humans need to be carried out. It is in people that most promising new medicine falls down.

But if trials are successful, Gill believes that microbes could be harnessed against an array of cancers including colon, lung, melanoma, renal, bladder and head and neck cancer, either alone or in combination with existing immunotherapies. In the lab, when specific strains of Bifs were combined with a type of immunotherapy drug called a checkpoint inhibitor, the tumour growth in mice was nearly abolished.

More broadly, Gill sees a gap in the market for effective early-stage treatments for disease. “Modern medicine is still very limited,” he says, pointing out that many conditions are not treated until the late stages because the treatment might be expensive, have side effects or require professional administration. Monoclonal microbials, in contrast, could be swallowed at home. He thinks that they could be used as a preventative medicine, one that ensures that the gut-body network stays in healthy, homeostatic balance. Such a thing is not a new concept, he points out. It was just that, for a long time, he found it hard to imagine how it could be done.

Simba Gill, the chief executive of Evelo Biosciences, will be speaking at WIRED Health 2018 on March 13 at the Francis Crick Institute, London. See all the WIRED Health speakers here.


Bacteria Living in Our Gut Are Hijacking And Controlling Our Genes


Your gut microflora isn’t just sitting silently waiting for you to wolf down your next meal – it turns out there’s a constant conversation going on between these bacteria and your body’s genetic code.

New research has found a chemical produced by ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive system has an unusual effect on the chromosomes in nearby cells, a discovery that could help us better understand links between our diet and the development of one of the world’s most deadly cancers.

A team led by scientists from the Babraham Institute in the UK that discovered DNA in the epithelial tissues of the human colon contain an unusual level of a chemical known to act as an epigenetic switch, turning genes on and off.

What’s more, they found these levels were elevated in just one other part of the body: our brain.

Crotonylation is a recently discovered genetic editing process not unlike the more familiar form of genetic manipulation called methylation.

Both processes change how genes are expressed by tweaking the surrounding chemistry, without altering the actual code itself.

While methylation involves the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to a nucleotide base – usually cytosine (C), but occasionally adenosine (A) – crotonylation clips an acetyl group onto proteins called histones that help keep strands of DNA neatly ordered.

Finding crotonylated histones in gut tissue suggests something is preventing the body from removing those acetyl groups. And the researchers suspected they knew what it could be.

Small organic molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced when the fibre in our fruit in veg is fermented by our resident microbes.

Previous research had suggested there were links between the cell’s metabolism and crotonylation, pointing to SCFAs as the culprit.

The researchers analysed tissue from the colon, brain, liver, spleen, and kidney, and found higher levels of histone crotonylation in the brain and colon.

Why this occurs in the brain but not the other organs is still something of a mystery.

Yet this new study demonstrates it’s the bacteria that are ultimately responsible for the modification.

“Short chain fatty acids are a key energy source for cells in the gut but we’ve also shown they affect crotonylation of the genome,” says lead author Rachel Fellows from Babraham Institute.

Specifically, SCFAs produced by the kinds of bacteria found in a healthy human colon promote crotonylation by preventing an enzyme called histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) from removing the markers.

To confirm bacteria were indeed responsible, the researchers dosed mice with a cocktail of antibiotics to wipe out most of the bacterial microflora in their guts. Not only did the SCFAs drop, so too did the crotonylation of the histones in their gut lining.

Exactly what benefits the bacteria might get – if any – wasn’t addressed by the study.

But the research could have implications in how our genes are affected by our diet, which could go some way to help flesh out the links between dietary fibre and bowel cancer.

With around 770,000 deaths from colorectal cancer each year, finding more ways to prevent and treat the disease is a high priority for researchers.

Meanwhile, it’s a good reminder for us to check our diet and make sure it’s not just our bodies that are being well fed, but our tiniest citizens as well.

“Our intestine is the home of countless bacteria that help in the digestion of foods such as plant fibres,” says the study’s lead scientist, Patrick Varga-Weisz.

“They also act as a barrier to harmful bacteria and educate our immune system. How these bugs affect our cells is a key part of these processes.”

This research was published in Nature Communications.


Genetically engineered probiotics to turn vegetables into cancer-killing agents


Imagine recruiting a strain of gut bacteria to help target and kill cancer cells in your colon? A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) is doing exactly that – genetically modifying a common type of gut bacteria so it locks onto colorectal cancer cells and turns a substance found in broccoli into a cancer-killing toxin.

This remarkable research starts with genetically modifying a harmless form of bacteria commonly found in our gut called E. coli Nissle. The bacteria is engineered to bind to a compound called heparan sulphate proteoglycan, which is found on the surface of colorectal cancer cells.

The microbe lands on the cancer cells and then sits waiting for its host to consume a foodstuff containing glucosinolates. Found in broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, the glucosinolates are converted into a molecule called sulphoraphane – a known cancer-killing compound – via an enzyme secreted from the engineered bacteria.

The study first tested the process in vitro and found the combination of engineered bacteria and glucosinolates killed over 95 percent of colorectal cancer cells. Moving to mouse models the results were equally impressive, reducing tumor numbers by a striking 75 percent.

There are of course plenty of hurdles to overcome before this kind of research is ever practically implemented in human beings. Not the least of which are questions over the unintended side effects of seeding a human subject with genetically engineered bacteria. There are teams currently working on producing a “fail-safe” system for genetically engineered bacteria, similar to a kind of kill-switch, in case the bacteria start behaving in an unintended way.

The NUS team sees a future where these engineered bacteria are consumed as probiotics either to prevent cancer, or to kill lingering tumor cells that were too small to be identified during a surgical removal. Eating your broccoli could literally become a medical necessity.

“One exciting aspect of our strategy is that it just capitalizes on our lifestyle, potentially transforming our normal diet into a sustainable, low-cost therapeutic regimen,” says Matthew Chang, one of the researchers on the project.

The research was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Source: National University of Singapore via ScienceDaily


The Function of EM and Gravitational Waves (deel 1, 2 en 3)


Onderstaande zijn 3 artikelen uit de serie “The Function of EM and Gravitational Waves” van professor Higa.

#104 – The Function of EM and Gravitational Waves

On February 11th, I heard the news that the LIGO in the USA successfully detected the emitted gravitational waves when two of the black holes were united. After considering various ideas, I have begun to think that the almighty, mysterious Hado waves emitted by EM are the gravitational waves proposed by Prof. Hideo Seki. Dr. Seki’s theories are elucidated in detail in his book, Gravitonics: A Cosmology Preface (Kasoku Gakuen Publications Department, 2000).

Initially, as a basis for explaining the almighty, mysterious features of EM, it was thought they were due to the strong antioxidant effects of EM. Certainly, EM, including within the body, will clear or remove a large number of free radicals that have the different properties that occur in nature. EM makes harmful chemical substances harmless, including dioxin. There are no exceptions.

The next thing that became clear were the non-ionizing effects. Oxidation and ionization will occur at the same time, in equilibrium, recovering electricity that was ionized, making it non-ionic, in other words changing it to a state that is not tinged with electricity. Changing, in other words, red rust to black rust. Therefore, even in the soil of the desert in which salts have accumulated and salt damage occurs, using EM will immediately nurture the soil so it returns to normal, and salinity will quickly disappear. In fact, salt is changed to fertilizer and absorbed, a repeated phenomenon that makes one think the salt was lost.

These can be explained in terms of the theory of atomic transmutation theory by microorganisms proposed by the French scientist Corentin Louis Kervran, and Dr. Komaki. However, at that time, since pseudo scholars who have not tested EM
were bashing EM, saying that it is outrageous, I refrained from making claims about the atom or atomic transmutation by EM.

The last results supporting this came from experiments in Belarus, an area that suffered in the disaster of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, experiments that showed that more that 15 percent of the radioactive cesium has disappeared. At the same time as this series of events, when EM was into a glass container in the treated areas, trichloroethylene disappeared in about 12 hours, and the amount in even untreated plots that had been in contact with the container decreased to a level that one could never expect. Even if you place a container about 5cm from an untreated plot, it was also confirmed that in a few days trichloroethylene greatly decreased in the untreated group. Up to now, we have experienced a number of similar phenomena in water purification and the like. In spite of the fact that there was a great difference in the original experiments, if the plot remains in contact with the container, or is even about 4 to 5cm apart from it, it will quickly show the same tendencies as the EM treated group.

Thinking that EM has some sort of Hado waves that penetrate the container, I tried to move the untreated group to the next room. This proved a correct decision, for the untreated plot that was moved to the next room no longer showed any changes.

Because this reaction was promoted by the presence of magnetism, it was originally explained as due to magnetic resonance Hado (especially nuclear magnetism). However, at this level, it is impossible to explain that the radioactivity disappears with EM. But if the Hado in EM have resonance and vibration, these must be ultra-ultra high Hado of ultra low energy that exceed radioactivity, and I have been using this rather difficult explanation that relies on this type of mutually contradictory Hado.

As a matter of course, in physics it is accepted that high frequency waves have high energy. Thus, in electromagnetic theory such Hado cannot exist. However, I was convinced of the existence of Hado that went beyond this. In other words, the presence of gravitational waves.

At such time I found the book of Dr. Hideo Seki that I mentioned above. This book provided answers to all my questions.

1. Gravitational waves are longitudinal Hado, that is, unlike electromagnetic two-dimensional transverse waves, they are longitudinal waves of three-dimensional ultra-high frequency. If these are three-dimensional waves, it could possibly explain them being both ultra-low energy and ultra-ultra high frequency.

2. Since microorganisms generate Nenha-like waves (associated with telepathy) similar to GTW (gravitational waves), there is a possibility of generating transmutation (atomic conversion). We think highly of the idea of atomic conversion by microorganisms that Dr. Komaki supports.

3. Ceramics, like EM ceramics, that generate gravitational waves by utilizing microorganisms, can make a used razor blade new again.

4. Dr. Komaki further argues that we need to research the nature of gravitational waves and their application in various fields (communications, energy, spirit, physiology, biology, environment, etc.) and how these can be applied in society in the future.

Because I had already confirmed the majority of the cases mentioned in that book, I grew confident that the mysterious phenomenon of EM is due to the gravitational waves EM emits.

Gravitational Waves, by the Action of Attraction Alone, Maintain the Balance of all Things.

In theory, gravitational waves should be produced when you simply move your body, however the reality is that these are so small they are impossible to detect. The general public has misunderstood gravitational waves as Hado emanating in the far-off reaches of the universe. In the case this time, they were able to measure large gravitational waves generated at the time of the coalescence of black holes, which contain a huge amount of energy. Therefore, even if equal gravitational waves exist (function) in the environment around us and in the world of elementary particles, it is impossible to measure them directly because they are too small. However, according to the ideas of Dr. Hideo Seki, if you continue to pursue the mysterious phenomenon that emerge, you will experience the reality that gravitational waves are indeed functioning.

Salt changes to fertilizer, radioactivity disappears, people recover from incurable diseases, plants grow several times more than expected, pollution completely disappears, superconductivity occurs at room temperature, and permanent power generation, cosmic energy, detoxification of electromagnetic waves, and other phenomenon are possible. It would be best to consider that the majority of these phenomenon, said to be miracles or products of the occult, actually involve the action of gravitational waves.

Starting from the next article I will introduce a variety of cases in which gravitational waves are likely to be involved. In order to deepen your understanding of gravitational waves, in addition to Dr. Seki’s book, I suggest also reading Dr. Hiroshi Ooguri’s book What is the Force of Gravity–From Einstein to Superstring Theory, Approaching the Mysteries of the Universe (Gentosha, 2012). It is an easy-to-understand commentary that non-experts can appreciate.

#105: The Function of EM and Gravitational Waves–Part 2

In the previous article, I explained how I came to conclude that the Hado function of EM is now considered to be based on gravitational waves. In conclusion, I mentioned how encountering the book, Gravatonics, by Dr. Hideo Seki was decisive. Professor Seki says that if the frequency of transverse wave electromagnetic waves that are currently used is changed using crystal, graphite, etc., it is possible to convert them to gravitational waves.

In fact, graphene with ultra-rectifying function, fullerene, carbon micro coil and carbon nanotubes, silicon carbide, etc., turned into a repeated coil state or a very stable three-dimensional structure. Their function can be thought of as a milestone in superconductivity, and graphene will soon be applied in that way. It has been confirmed that rectifying elements made by utilizing EM function similarly, with high functionality.

1. You don’t need to be an expert to know the wonders of EM

If you immerse a commercially available cheap razor with two blades for a few seconds in activated EM liquid each time after you use it, and then wipe it clean, you can continue to use it for quite a long period of time without the blade becoming dull. EMW, EMX Gold, and EM ceramics have the same effect.

If you soak rusted scissors and farm equipment in EM or activated EM liquid you not only can get rid of the rust, but if you soak cutlery in EM or activated EM liquid or spray EM Gold after each use, it will become increasingly sharp and if you carefully repeat this, they will be as sharp as famous Japanese swords.

Gently spray EMX Gold diluted 100 to 500 times on old clothes you no longer wear. As you increase the number of times you spray, the clothes will become better than new and transform into high-function clothes that are enhance your health.

Spraying shoes and accessories, furniture, appliances, and everything you use in the home in the same way will make them highly functional, and before you know it your electric bills will be lower and all will become healthy.

For people who find it too troublesome to make activated EM liquid, for those looking for a simpler way, this method is perfect. The effects will not disappear easily, and consistent with the principles of gravitational waves, the effects will increase the more it is applied.

2. Further enhanced effects when the potential voltage is present

Several times in this series I have described the effects of barriers made with EM, and in recent years, to increase its effectiveness, we have utilized the potential voltage present in batteries and utility poles.

Originally the aim of building a barrier was to create an invisible barrier to protect a holy site, surrounding it with tied rope or string, adding prayers of protection, using jewelry, etc. as an energy medium, with the understanding that the space will be a high-energy three-dimensional state. At first glance it seems like some kind of magic spell, but the abilities of the person who take care to do this create the phenomenon of “miracle efficaciousness.” However, if you are not trained to be able to sense it, most people ignore it or don’t believe it because it has not been proven scientifically. The more times this is done, the stronger the Hado becomes.

The method of using EM to make a barrier is highly repeatable, and in recent years the methods of creating these barriers has further evolved. At corner posts that make up the barrier, put in activated EM liquid made with seawater and add one spoonful of both Super Cera powder and charcoal powder, seal this mixture up and tie it, then paste a 3V lithium-ion battery to it, or connect it to a telephone pole. Even without electricity flowing, it will induce Hado comparable to the voltage.

To check its strength, also as a way to check the quantum entanglement using the O-ring method, you can see the amplification effect on Hado through such potential voltage.

The essence of limit breakthroughs with EM is supported by gravitational waves.

As I have already introduced in numerous cases, if you carefully spray EM a number of times, you will get much better results than spraying a large amount only one time. In all cases, spraying a 500 to 1000 times dilution of EMX Gold over indoor plants and as a final step when house cleaning and washing clothes will, over a six month to one year period, restore these in a way that is obvious to anyone.

When the level of the rectifying elements made from EM increases, it will naturally also be possible to incorporate the energy from gravitational waves inherent in organisms. In a field of bananas entirely planted and cultivated using EM, we surrounded it with a barrier line to which were attached rectifying elements of EM on each corner, with an induced potential voltage of 6600V. The results are seen in the following photo.

We see the bananas in one banana tree coming out divided into two bunches. In addition, the number of bananas on each bunch is two to three times normal yield. My original profession is tropical fruit tree expert. This is the only such phenomenon in the world, and though there are examples of two fruit bunches on trees used for ornamental purposes, there are no cases of this occurring in commercial varieties of the fruit. This could be seen as a morphologically different variety.

This shows Thai-based Island bananas growing on the tree until last week (March 21). The fruit on this variety of tree will stop growing in winter, with the fruit so misshapen that they can’t be sold commercially. But even in this time when it is relatively cold, the fruit have grown as impressively as during the most desirable period of summer.

These are the leaves of the giant edible Malabar spinach that grew after I installed a barrier line. Usually they are the size of the leaves on the lower part, and the difference is obvious.

This is a comparison of one of its huge leaves and a normal-sized leaf. The surface area is four times bigger, and it is more than five times heavier.

Such a limit breakthrough phenomenon will never occur unless electrons are incorporated that far exceed the energy of normal photosynthesis. From a different perspective, it goes beyond the mechanism of conventional genes. On the flip side, if it is possible to give a lot of electrons to plants, then ultra high-yield, ultra high-quality crop cultivation is possible without the necessity of producing special varieties through gene recombination, etc.

#106: The Function of EM and Gravitational Waves–Part 3

In the previous article, I explained about the wonders of EM so they can be confirmed even by non-specialists. In general this involves anti-oxidation, non-ionization, and an extreme rise in electronic effect due to rectification. These phenomenon occur in both living and non-living entities, and in both organic material and inorganic material, and further are found in all chemical reactions and movement of electrons, without exception.

In other words, entropy is extremely low, and a resuscitation phenomenon (syntropy) is constantly maintaining order.

This original power, as I have mentioned before, matches the theory of Dr. Hideo Seki that microorganisms of a strong anaerobic nature, with synthesis and fermentation function, emit strong gravitons and make gravitational waves function.

In short, it all depends on how the power of microorganisms having these functions are integrated and maintained. Use a combination of charcoal and salt that have rectification force along with good quality activated EM solution until results are seen.

In the world of Hado, those on the upper level will dominate over those below. Viewed paradoxically, if features of high-order Hado are added to lower-level Hado, they will be raised to the higher level.

This is the background to my statement in the previous article that “The wonders of EM can be confirmed by non-experts.” Also, as I have often explained, when you make activated EM solution, add 1/1,000 to 1/10,000 EMX Gold or EM Super Cera C Powder, and you can produce a very high quality activated solution. If you use seawater, the effects will be doubled.

The principle of such gravitational waves also works for deep seawater. Even without using 100% deep seawater, the effects are quite high with the same effects occurring if even about 1/100 to 1/1,000 EM is added to the usual seawater. I believe this phenomenon, too, is due to the gravitons generated by the anaerobic bacteria that are in the deep sea.

About twenty years ago, I performed an application test using deep seawater.
Growth improved, and pests decreased, and I could confirm clear effects. However, when I added about 1/100 to 1/1,000 of EM to ordinary seawater, the results were exactly the same. These were the circumstances that prompted me to stop researching the use of deep seawater then.

When we applied over 5,000 tons of activated EM solution applied to Tokyo Bay, it not only showed the now-familiar EM purification mechanism, but in a sense the entire bay became deep ocean water-like. And the same can be said of Mikawa Bay, as well as other places that have become clean and abundant seas through the introduction of EM mudballs and activated EM solution.

In the previous article, I stated that “the essence of the breakthrough limit with EM is supported by gravitational waves”; since the occurrence of pests is also caused by an increase in entropy, the breakthrough limit crops using EM shouldn’t have any problems with pests.

But let us say that even though you made a strong commitment to EM-based cultivation, at the end of
the season you see pests multiplying.
As a measure to deal with such cases, I put down the kind of barrier line that I discussed in a previous article on top of a cabbage badly damaged by cabbage butterflies. (Photo 1)

Photo 1
Afterwards there was reduced damage by cabbage butterflies, the cabbage headed up nicely, and I was able to harvest perfect cabbages. (Photo 2)

Photo 2
Photo 3 shows the situation in the tomato house at Sunshine Farm. At the end of March, greenhouse whitefly, mites, aphids, Spodoptera and powdery mildew and rust disease occurred frequently, and there was a limit to what a general EM application could do.

In this situation, I connected the barrier line so not just the greenhouse itself but all the tomato plants as well were rectified. About two weeks later the appearance of the plants completely changed, most of the pests had disappeared, and it has continued to see a harvest at a level close to that of its heyday. This technology is still at the experimental stage, but if it is put into practical use, the majority of problems faced by agriculture can be resolved. (Photo 4)

Photo 3

Photo 4




Elke bacterie lijkt een eigen persoonlijkheid te hebben


En dat niet alleen: bacteriën hebben ook ‘stemmingswisselingen’.

Dat schrijven Nederlandse onderzoekers in het blad eLife. Ze baseren zich op experimenten met de bekende bacterie E. coli.

Bacteriën zijn eencellig en hebben dus geen zenuwstelsel. Maar ze kunnen dankzij een netwerk van eiwitmoleculen – die met elkaar samenwerken op een manier die sterk lijkt op hoe zenuwen in ons brein functioneren – wel hun bewegingen beheersen. “Zo ‘weet’ E. coli – een onschadelijke darmbacterie – wanneer hij zijn rechtdoorgaande zwemrichting moet veranderen door af en toe te tuimelen, waardoor hij in een nieuwe, willekeurige richting verder zwemt,” legt onderzoeker Tom Shimizu uit. “E. coli gebruikt signaaleiwitten om voedselmoleculen of giftige stoffen te detecteren. Daarmee beslist de bacterie al zwemmend of zijn leven beter of slechter wordt, en hoe vaak hij moet tuimelen om op een goede plek terecht te komen.”

Al jaren onderzoeken wetenschappers hoe deze moleculaire netwerken in bacteriën reageren op veranderingen in de omgeving (zoals bijvoorbeeld een plotselinge overvloed aan voedsel). Maar daarbij was het tot voor kort niet mogelijk om te achterhalen hoe het eiwitnetwerk in elke individuele bacterie reageert. In plaats daarvan moest het signaal gemiddeld worden over honderden bacteriën. Shimizu en collega’s hebben nu echter een microscopiemethode ontwikkeld waarmee ze de reactie van moleculaire netwerken wél in individuele bacteriën kunnen vaststellen. En dat levert verrassende resultaten op.

Een eigen persoonlijkheid
De onderzoekers werkten met bacteriën die – net als eeneiige tweelingen – exact hetzelfde DNA hadden en onder dezelfde omstandigheden gekweekt waren. Je zou op basis daarvan misschien dan ook wel verwachten dat het netwerk van eiwitmoleculen zich in elke bacterie hetzelfde gedraagt. Maar niets is minder waar. In elke bacterie gedroeg het eiwitnetwerk – zelfs als de chemische omgeving gelijk was – zich weer anders. “Elke bacterie lijkt een eigen persoonlijkheid te hebben,” vertelt onderzoeker Johannes Keegstra. “We vonden bijvoorbeeld dat de chemische drempelconcentratie waarop ze reageren, aanzienlijk verschilt tussen bacteriën.”

Daarnaast blijkt uit het onderzoek dat de moleculaire activiteit in bacteriën ook aan verandering onderhevig is, zelfs als de omgeving niet verandert. De onderzoekers noemen dat stemmingswisselingen. Het betekent heel concreet dat het mechanisme waarop bacteriën hun ‘beslissing’ – om gewoon rechtdoor te blijven zwemmen of te gaan tuimelen en van richting te veranderen – baseren, dus behoorlijk onberekenbaar kan zijn. De wisselende moleculaire signalen zijn volgens de onderzoekers wellicht het resultaat van toevalsgebeurtenissen in de bacterie. Shimizu legt uit: “We denken dat de bacteriële individualiteit niet komt door nature (de DNA volgorde) of nurture (omgevingsinvloeden), maar veel meer door willekeurige gebeurtenissen zoals botsingen van moleculen binnenin de bacterie.”
Tegelijkertijd heeft de bacteriepopulatie mogelijk wel baat bij deze stemmingswisselingen, vertelt Keegstra. “We waren verrast door hoe drastisch de stemmingswisselingen waren,” vertelt Keegstra. “De aanzienlijke variatie in stemmingen zou kunnen betekenen dat sommige bacteriën zich gedragen als verkenners die afgelegen, grote gebieden onderzoeken met slechts soms een belangrijk resultaat, terwijl anderen dichtbij blijven en efficiënt gebruik maken van wat daar te vinden is. Zo’n verdeling van de arbeid kan gunstig zijn voor de hele populatie.”

Het onderzoek heeft verschillende implicaties. Zo kan meer inzicht in de verschillen die er tussen het gedrag van bacteriën zijn wellicht helpen om ziekteverwekkende bacteriën te bestrijden, zonder dat daarbij ook ‘goede’ bacteriën worden uitgeschakeld.