Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gator blood contains naturally strong germ fighters, new GMU research finds

12.02.2015

Alligator peptides could help soldiers in the field fight infections

Sophisticated germ fighters found in alligator blood may help future soldiers in the field fend off infection, according to new research by George Mason University.


George Mason University professor Barney Bishop poses with Fluffy, an American alligator.

Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

The study, published Feb. 11 in the scientific journal PLOS One, is the result of a fundamental research project supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to find bacterial infection-defeating compounds in the blood of the crocodilian family of reptiles, which includes American alligators.

The project is about to start its fourth year and has received $6 million in funding to date from DTRA. If fully funded over five years, the project will be worth $7.57 million.

Alligators live in bacteria-filled environments and dine on carrion. Yet this ancient reptile rarely falls ill.

"If you look at nature, sometimes we can find pre-selected molecules to study," says study co-author Monique van Hoek. "I was surprised to find peptides that were as effective as they are in fighting bacteria. I was really impressed."

Discoveries made by George Mason's 17-member, multidisciplinary research team could eventually find their way to the battlefield to protect warfighters from wound infections and potential exposure to biothreat agents. Researchers believe this work could benefit civilians too.

"We hope that these could be the basis to develop new treatments," says van Hoek, a professor in the School of Systems Biology and the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at Mason.

Exploiting innate immunity

Van Hoek and lead co-authors Barney Bishop and Joel Schnur from the College of Science suspected the germ-fighting ability could be in the form of antimicrobial peptides. These very small proteins are part of the innate immunity of alligators and even humans; all higher organisms make antimicrobial peptides.

"It's that part of your immune system that keeps you alive in the two or three weeks before you can make antibodies to a bacterial infection," van Hoek says. "It's part of your generalized immune response to the world."

Peptides are more general in their activity than antibodies, which are made to fight infections by specific bacteria or viruses.

"Innate immunity may work less well than antibodies, but it works well enough," van Hoek adds. "The reason why we're so interested in them: they are part of nature's way of dealing with the onslaught of bacteria and viruses that we face every day. Every breath that you take, every thing that you eat, you're constantly exposed to bacteria and your body needs to fend them off in some way."

Alligator blood samples were provided by Kent Vliet of the University of Florida and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Fla., which has a wide variety of reptiles, including all 23 species of crocodilians.

Bishop says he was surprised at the sophistication and diversity of the alligator's germ-fighting peptides. These reptiles have evolved with a formidable defense against bacterial infections.

The Mason team took an innovative approach in its study of the alligator blood samples. Bishop developed custom-made nanoparticles to preferentially capture the peptides out of the very complex mixture of proteins and peptides in alligator plasma.

This process revealed an unexpected result--the identified potent germ-fighting peptides were only fragments of larger "parent" proteins, says Bishop, who's also a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The custom-made particles used in this project significantly shortened the number of steps required to capture and identify peptides that were present in alligator blood plasma.

The Mason team has other reptiles to tackle. As part of the DTRA grant called "Translational Peptide for Personal Protection," Mason researchers also will study Siamese crocodiles, Nile crocodiles and gharials.

And they've learned a thing or two along the way about these ancient reptiles.

"You stay away from the business end," Bishop jokes.

The paper, Bioprospecting the American Alligator Host Defense Peptidome, is on the PLOS One website. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117394

About George Mason University

George Mason is Virginia's largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls nearly 34,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. http://www.gmu.edu

Media Contact

Michele McDonald
mmcdon15@gmu.edu
703-993-8781

 @GeorgeMasonNews

http://www.gmu.edu 

Michele McDonald | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Alligator GMU antimicrobial bacteria blood samples germ infections peptides proteins reptiles

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Indications of Psychosis Appear in Cortical Folding
26.04.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

European particle-accelerator community publishes the first industry compendium

26.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Multifunctional bacterial microswimmer able to deliver cargo and destroy itself

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

Why we need erasable MRI scans

26.04.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>