A team of biologists at Caltech have engineered thermal bioswitches into bacteria that can then be guided to specific locations in the body to combat disease. The work was led by Mikhail Shapiro, a recipient of a DARPA Young Faculty Award.

The study, published in Nature Chemical Biology uses mice to demonstrate how doctors might one day better regulate therapeutic microbes by engineering them to respond to temperature. For instance, if engineered bacteria were administered to a patient with a disease, doctors could, in theory, instruct the bacteria to release medicine to just the site of interest, and nowhere else in the body, by using ultrasound to gently heat up the tissue.