The work is led by Dr. Christopher Nomura of the college’s Department of Chemistry, who discovered that a simple protein molecule can interrupt the process bacteria use to move, eat, attach to surfaces, and communicate with one another or, in other words, to become potentially harmful.
“This is fundamentally a new way to think about blocking bacteria from becoming virulent,” Nomura said.
Exposing bacteria to the synthetic protein disrupts the developmental sequence that is common among such organisms, he said. This gives the process the potential to work against an array of bacteria including those that threaten patients with certain illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, stubborn strains that commonly affect hospital patients and strains that occur in desert environments and prove troublesome for U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan or similar arid environments.
The college is seeking to patent the process.
Nomura’s research group focuses on the synthesis and properties of eco-friendly, biologically based materials, in particular the production of biobased polymers that can be used to make biodegradable plastics. He and his postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Benjamin Lundgren, were working on experiments in that realm when they overproduced some proteins that they thought would increase the expression of genes to produce the bioplastic materials. But instead of making the bacteria produce large quantities of plastics, the protein had the opposite effect.
Nomura began to investigate the chemistry behind the startling development and discovered that specific proteins can attach themselves to the bacterial DNA in a manner that essentially prevents the organism from expressing the information contained within its genes and results in short circuiting the ability of bacteria to respond to changes in their environment.
The antimicrobial process has an added advantage over traditional antibiotics currently in use: It will be extremely difficult for bacteria to do an end run around the process by simply mutating. Since the protein targets hundreds of genes simultaneously, a corresponding mutation would also involve hundreds of changes. Traditional antibiotics attack only one aspect of the bacteria’s development, making mutation a simpler task.
“Basically, we’re interrupting the flow of genetic information in the cell, in effect ‘hacking’ the program of the bacterial cell,” Nomura said. “If we can fundamentally control the mechanism of gene expression, we can control what the bacteria are capable of doing. We can prevent them from becoming virulent.”
Claire B. Dunn | Newswise
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine