Among the deadliest of all disease-causing organisms, Staph is the leading cause of human infections in the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints and bloodstream, and drug-resistant Staph infections are a growing threat. By federal estimates, more than 94,000 people develop serious MRSA infections and about 19,000 people die from MRSA in the U.S. every year. MRSA is believed to cause more deaths in the U.S. than HIV/AIDS.
The multi-institutional team exploited a chemical pathway that allows the Staph bacterium to defend itself against an immune response. The researchers showed that a compound (BPH-652) originally designed to lower cholesterol blocks a key enzyme in that pathway, weakening the organism’s defenses and allowing the body’s immune cells to prevail against the infection.A golden-colored pigment called a carotenoid gives the S. aureus bacterium its edge. “Aureus” is Latin for “golden.” The carotenoid acts as an antioxidant for the bacterium, allowing it to evade attack by the body’s immune cells. By crippling production of the carotenoid, the compound strips Staph of one of its key defenses.
When he read about this finding, University of Illinois chemistry professor Eric Oldfield realized that the chemical precursors of the Staph carotenoid were identical to those that led to production of cholesterol in humans. Oldfield, who is the senior author of the paper, had spent decades exploring this pathway, which has implications for the treatment of some cancers, as well as fungal and parasitic diseases. He noted that an enzyme in the human pathway, squalene synthase, was strikingly similar to one that led to the production of the carotenoid in Staph. He also knew that many compounds already had been developed to block the human enzyme.
“I thought there was a good chance that squalene synthase inhibitors developed early on as cholesterol lowering agents might also work on this other pathway,” he said. “Current cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins work in a completely different way and would be ineffective.”
The researchers began by testing dozens of new compounds for their activity against the Staph enzyme. This allowed them to narrow the field of potential candidates to eight. When they tested these drugs on Staph cells, they found that BPH-652 was the most effective at getting into the cells. A tiny dose impaired the cells’ ability to produce the carotenoid. The cells, once golden, turned white.
“We have found that the same golden armor used by Staph to thwart our immune system can also be its Achilles’ heel,” said Nizet, a study co-author, who is affiliated with the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UCSD.Preliminary studies were conducted in the laboratories of Nizet and Dr. George Liu, a professor of pediatrics at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. Exposure to BPH-652 also markedly reduced bacterial levels in a mouse model of severe Staph infection.
“Our structural studies pinpointed how these drug candidates bound to the bacterial enzyme to shut off pigment production,” Wang said.
The new findings are particularly promising because BPH-652 already has been used (as a cholesterol-lowering agent) in human clinical trials, reducing the cost and time for development.
“This research is an excellent example of how discoveries at the lab bench can lead to clinical advances,” said Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, the director of the National Institutes of Health, which supported the research. “By following their scientific instinct about a basic biological process, the researchers found a promising new strategy that could help us control a very timely and medically important health concern.”
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences