Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Molecular homing beacon redirects human antibodies to fight pathogenic bacteria

07.05.2015

Bacteria-specific molecules attract pre-existing antibodies to help immune system clear infection

With the threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens growing, new ideas to treat infections are sorely needed. Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences report preliminary success testing an entirely novel approach -- tagging bacteria with a molecular "homing beacon" that attracts pre-existing antibodies to attack the pathogens. The study is published by the Journal of Molecular Medicine.


Alphamers (purple) act as homing beacons, attracting pre-existing anti-alpha-Gal antibodies (green) to the bacterial surface.

Credit: Altermune Technologies

The molecular homing beacon is the brainchild of study co-author and Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, PhD, who invented polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a now-common lab technique used to replicate DNA.

One end of the homing beacon is made up of a DNA aptamer, a small piece of DNA that can be selected from a pool of billions of candidates based on its ability to bind tightly to a particular target. In this test case, the aptamer specifically targeted group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep throat and invasive skin infections, while leaving human cells untouched.

The other end of the homing beacon is alpha-Gal, a type of sugar molecule. Humans naturally produce antibodies against alpha-Gal. That's because alpha-Gal is foreign to humans. Other mammals and some microbes produce it. Humans have evolved antibodies against it when we eat meat or are exposed to alpha-Gal-generating microbes in our environment.

To test the homing beacon -- or "Alphamer" -- against live strep bacteria, Mullis enlisted the help of Victor Nizet, MD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy at UC San Diego, whose laboratory studies how pathogens interact with the human immune system. The research team found that Alphamers not only bind strep and recruit anti-Gal antibodies to the bacterial surface, they also helps human immune cells engulf and kill the Alphamer-coated bacteria.

The study offers the first proof-of-concept that Alphamers have the potential to specifically redirect pre-existing antibodies to bacteria and rapidly activate an antibacterial immune response.

"Our next step is to test Alphamers in animal models of infection with multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a public health threat, such as MRSA," said first author Sascha Kristian, PhD, visiting research scholar at UC San Diego and ?associate research director at Altermune Technologies, a company Mullis founded to develop Alphamers into unique therapeutics. "Meanwhile, we'll also be tweaking the Alphamer to make it more potent and more resistant to degradation by the body."

If Alphamers continue to show promise, researchers might be able to apply the same concept to attack any type of bacteria or virus, or perhaps even cancer cells.

"We're picturing a future in which doctors have a case full of pathogen-specific Alphamers at their disposal," Nizet said. "They see an infected patient, identify the causative bacteria and pull out the appropriate Alphamer to instantly enlist the support of the immune system in curing the infection."

###

An animation of the Alphamer technology is available at: https://youtu.be/5cfxhu3YqGs

Co-authors of this study include John H. Hwang, and Emma Leire, UC San Diego; Bradley Hall, and Kary B. Mullis, Altermune Technologies; John Iacomini, Tufts University School of Medicine; Robert Old, Loxbridge Research; Uri Galili, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Charles Roberts, and Mike Westby, Altermune Technologies and Loxbridge Research.

This research was funded by Altermune Technologies, LLC (Irvine, CA).

Disclosure: Victor Nizet is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Altermune Technologies, LLC.

Media Contact

Heather Buschman
hbuschman@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163

 @UCSanDiego

http://www.ucsd.edu 

Heather Buschman | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>