Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

To control germs, scientists deploy tiny agents provocateurs

15.03.2005


Aiming to thwart persistent bacterial infections and better control group behaviors of certain microorganisms, scientists are creating artificial chemicals that infiltrate and sabotage bacterial "mobs."



Reporting the work here today (March 13) at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Helen Blackwell described the ongoing construction of a new class of molecules that conduct such chemical warfare.

Targeting natural signaling mechanisms in bacterial cells, Blackwell aims to ultimately control the formation of biofilms, goo-like amalgamations of bacteria that are widespread in nature and have serious implications for agriculture and human health. Biofilms form the green slime on rocks, the plaque on human teeth and the slippery film on ship hulls. If a single cell were analogous to one man, biofilms would be the "bacterial equivalent of mob mentality," says Blackwell.


In the realm of health, biofilms are at the root of growing numbers of tenacious, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections, says Blackwell. Indeed, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study last year reported that almost 80 percent of bacterial infections are in the biofilm forma.

Biofilms can often constitute several species of bacteria and can be both harmful and beneficial. In one role, biofilms can coat plant roots and symbiotically aid ecological processes such as nitrogen fixation. But at the darker end of the scale, biofilms can form infection-inducing layers on implanted medical devices and cause deadly lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Biofilms have long baffled researchers because of their stupefying capacity to behave like a "super-organism" that vetoes the normal characteristics of a bacterial cell in favor of new group behaviors. "It’s amazing that such simple organisms as bacteria can form these super-colonies that work together in such sophisticated ways," says Blackwell.

Scientists have learned that bacteria sense each other and the overall density of their colony by continuously exchanging small molecules and peptides - a process known as quorum sensing. Past a certain density threshold, the colonies unite to initiate group behaviors, such as biofilm formation.

Attempting to manipulate quorum sensing in both plant and animal bacteria, Blackwell and her team are designing new compounds that mimic acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs), a natural molecule that is used by more than 50 species of bacteria to "talk." Researchers have so far studied around 15 variations of AHLs. In particular, the UW chemists are synthesizing molecules that interact with a specific class of proteins that are linked to AHLs and are critical in quorum sensing.

"We want to design molecules to confuse bacteria so they can’t sense their neighbors," says Blackwell, "but some types of quorum sensing are beneficial, so we are simultaneously searching for compounds that selectively turn on group behaviors."

Using new combinatorial chemistry techniques, Blackwell and her team are screening through hundreds of molecules at a time. The researchers have so far unveiled three promising organic compounds that seemingly quell bacterial signaling.

Helen Blackwell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.chem.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Wintering ducks connect isolated wetlands by dispersing plant seeds
22.02.2017 | Utrecht University

nachricht Warming ponds could accelerate climate change
21.02.2017 | University of Exeter

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's fermi finds possible dark matter ties in andromeda galaxy

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Wintering ducks connect isolated wetlands by dispersing plant seeds

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>