In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Christopher Nomura of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains the discovery of a new weapon in the battle against bacteria.
Christopher Nomura is an associate professor of Chemistry at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. His research interests center on using molecular techniques to improve the supply of precursors for biobased products. He holds a Ph.D. from Penn State University.
Dr. Christopher Nomura – New Antibacterial Material
We’ve found a protein that disrupts the ability of bacteria to grow and become virulent. Dr. Benjamin Lundgren and I have been focusing on the synthesis and properties of eco-friendly, biologically based materials, in particular using biobased polymers that can be used to make biodegradable plastics. We overproduced some proteins thinking that would increase the expression of genes to produce bioplastic materials. But instead of making the bacteria produce large quantities of plastics, the protein had a very different effect.
What we discovered is that is we can use a protein molecule to disrupt the process by which bacteria become virulent, a finding that could have widespread implications for human health. Our research has found that specific proteins can attach themselves to bacterial DNA in a manner that essentially prevents the organism from expressing the information contained within its genes and the result is it short circuits the ability of the bacteria to respond to environmental changes. Basically, we’re interrupting the flow of genetic information, in effect hacking the bacteria’s program.
The process holds out the possibility to work against an array of bacteria that threaten patients with illnesses like cystic fibrosis or stubborn strains of bacteria that affect hospital patients. In addition, going antimicrobial instead of using traditional antibiotics makes it extremely difficult for the bacteria to bypass treatment by simply mutating because the protein targets hundreds of genes simultaneously while traditional antibiotics attack only one aspect of the bacteria’s development making mutation simpler.