Vitamins from bacteria

This is a tangent that popped into my head that could be a viable project for us due to it's simplicity. Concept is simple. Modify readily availiable probiotic bacteria to contain genes that allow them to produce the vitamins that we currently have to ingest. They would have to be able to break down and process our waste and turn it into vitamins. This is already done for vitamin k (i think, this is off memory, but i know one of our vitamins comes from out gut). So why not all the rest? no more supplements and it could even work as a treatment for those deficient in one vitamin or another. Hell we could even have one produce massive amounts of vitamin A1 from glims and cassox vision trial. Sure it won't give you super vision but it could be interesting to see what your body does with more of it than usual. Possibilities are endless. So thorugh out some ideas and lets get tinkering. I should mention as the lab gets built and funded and such, if any of the ideas put forth in this thread are interesting or well put together I will actually make the bacteria and could run trials with them. SO lets do this!


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  • That's how insulin is made commercially; in bacteria in the lab. Sticking those bacteria in the gut of an animal is not going to work to treat diabetes, otherwise it would have been tried.
  • Was about to say the same thing^ Which is why I suggest we stick to vitamins. They're easy to absorb from that location and you can't OD on certain ones, you just piss out extra. Like B12 for example. And strictly speaking if you had the precursor to B12 being produced en mass in your gut you couldn't really die from cyanide poisoning..... just saying.
  • You can overdose on Vitamin A though, and Vitamin C IIRC...
  • so don't use those....

  • both are easy to get from food. B12 you can only get from animal sources or supplements so seems like a perfect start

  • See my comment in the electrotransfer thread. 
  • Had a thought about this while studying for a midterm. What if instead of ingesting the bacteria, we use horizontal transfer directly. Fill a capsule with the DNA we want in the bacteria and then time it to burst in the part of the digestive system we want to modify. That way multiple species will pick it up and the chance of it being fixed into the population is much higher. 
  • Well, I have mentioned this before, but I can't find where.

    Basically, your biggest issue that that what you want (vitamins) and what bacteria want (most reproduction for the lowest cost) are diametrically opposed. Most if not all of our genetech comes from bacteria. They are way better at it than we are. If there is something in the insert that the bacteria doesn't want, it will remove it.

    So, you have to consider what the bacteria want. Why does a bacteria have any need to make B12 or A1 or basically any other thing more than it alreadyh does? What evolutionary incentive does a gut bacteria have for keeping that modification? In a wild environment like your gut, a non functional (to a bacteria) mod like that will be gone in a few generations. At the end of the day (that's roughly 48 generations), how to convince that bacteria that what you have put in them matters?

    Now in a lab setting we attach antibiotic resistance to the mod, kind of a you need to keep this thing or you die type of thing. Even then, the bacteria manage to carve out the bits they want and discard the roughage, meaning you have antibiotic bacteria with no other mods.

    So, what is the incentive program? 
  • I know we've been over that before many times. It was just a delivery idea. As I've said before the incentive would be a new metabolic pathway, then you're killing two birds with one stone. Let them break down cellulose, or something else we normally crap out as waste. If we're releasing it as waste then we'll have a lot of it present and the bacteria will have the advantage and be able to stick around.
  • This is a good idea!

    I would look into the panda one first. Makes more sense to get something that lives inside a creature...
  • link is dead
  • works for me. pnas is just slow.

    Evidence of cellulose metabolism by the giant panda gut microbiome

  • works now
  • soooooo who wants to go shove a probe up a panda and get us some bacteria?
  • Did someone say cellulose metabolism? I will eat all of the things.

    Since vitamin A was discussed earlier, @Rubix was attempting this back in 2013 but got distracted, possibly due the roadblocks discussed earlier. Here were his notes in case those roadblocks are overcome in the future:
  • edited March 2015
    I think I mentioned why vitamin A would be a bad idea. It's fat soluble so it could accumulate in your body and kill you. water soluble vitamins or other useful cofactors that don't accumulate would be preferred and ideally it's something we don't get much of.

    @glims the other way we could make sure the biosynth we want sticks around is have the enzymes for it be produced at the same time as the new metabolic pathway enzymes. They may still excise it but bacteria do hang on to weird things so should be fine. Also looked more into the chemostat. Have a few ideas on how to do it on the very very very cheap.
  • --Compiled Post--
    Vitamin B12 would be a good fit, in terms of solubility and toxicity (It's been used safely in doses up to and possibly greater than 140 mg/kg intravenously.) In addition, there are already bacteria which produce a certain form of it (Hydroxocobalamin - I figure that having a look at the bacteria used for this process would probably be extremely useful.

    And here's a presumably lovely article(behind the ever requisite extravagant pay-wall) on the topic:
    @glims Could you grab this one, if you have access to it?

    Further research yielded this article(, which basically yielded the name of one of the bacterium used for commercial and industrial production of vitamin B12 for use in supplements, Bacillus megaterium ( Another bacterium more specifically designed to produce B12 is Pseudomonas denitrificans (
    However, since bacteria in the human gut already produce small amounts of vitamin B12, why reinvent the wheel in regards to this vitamin, unless producing elevated levels of B12 is a good thing (because it's got some interesting properties and uses, like treating cyanide poisoning in addition to the energy boosting properties it's most famous for). Also, since vitamin B12 is the most complex of the vitamins, it can't be that difficult to engineer other bacteria that produce simpler Vitamins.
  • Huh, looks like the University has changed their policy on alumni accessing journals. @drjaaz can grab it tho, or anyone else in uni.

    These two papers have been added to the dropbox:
    Microbial Production of Vitamin B12 and Anitmicrobial Activity of Glucose Utilizing Marine Derived Strep Species

    Both of these would be helpful in understanding how the process works.

    Mor importantly, this project has been done by openwetware guys have already tried this (I assume it works, no reason it wouldn't).
    There are biobricks for the sequence you are looking for and here is the design

  • already did. couldn't add it to the drop box
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