The GMO tooth microbe that is supposed to prevent cavities

Some experts have concerns over the safety of the genetically modified bacteria.

Apr 20, 2024 - 16:50
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The GMO tooth microbe that is supposed to prevent cavities
It's a tooth

Enlarge (credit: zhangshuang via Getty)

About seven years ago, Aaron Silverbook and his then-girlfriend, a biologist, were perusing old scientific literature online. “A romantic evening,” joked Silverbook. That night, he came across a study from 2000 that surprised him. Scientists had genetically engineered an oral bacterium that they said could possibly prevent tooth decay: “I read it and sort of boggled at it and said, ‘Wow, this is a cavity vaccine. Why don't we have this?’”

So, Silverbook tracked down the primary author, Jeffrey Hillman, a now-retired oral biologist formerly at the University of Florida, to see if he could pick up the torch.

In 2023, Silverbook founded Lantern Bioworks, which made a deal with Oragenics, the company Hillman co-founded and that owned the technology, for the materials. Lantern Bioworks then launched the genetically engineered bacteria under the name Lumina Probiotic. “I didn’t expect it to happen in my lifetime,” said Hillman.

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