Justyn Jaworski, PhD and Dan Trott, PhD | University of Texas at Arlington
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Award year: 2021
Advanced age is the major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is one of the leading causes of death in the industrialized world. Vascular aging manifests itself primarily through increases in large artery stiffness and impairments in endothelial function which are present in patients with clinical CVD and predictive of future cardiovascular events. A natural product known as equol has proven to be a key dietary factor in reducing large artery stiffness and the risk of age related CVD through estrogen receptor beta signaling. Unfortunately, only a minor fraction of Western population’s possess the proper intestinal bacteria capable of converting daidzein, an abundant isoflavone in soy based products, into the natural product equol. Our goal is to produce and test an engineered virus (specifically a non-lytic bacteriophage) that infects the gut bacteria to provide new genes without harming the bacteria. This virus will thus allow re-engineering of the existing gut bacteria such that they can produce the enzymes required for conversion of daidzein present in dietary soy into equol. By providing a consumable bacteriophage drink, we provide a more widely acceptable alternative to engineering the intestinal microbiota to produce equol which will be protective against arterial aging. Through this we create the opportunity for every individual to have an equol-producing gut phenotype, such that they may benefit in living longer, healthier lives.