Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Molecular & Clinical Diagnostics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

A Molecular “Superglue” Based on Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, April 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
In a classic case of turning an enemy into a friend, scientists have engineered a protein from flesh-eating bacteria to act as a molecular “superglue” that promises to become a disease fighter.

And their latest results, which make the technology more versatile, were the topic of a report here today at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

“We’ve turned the tables and put one kind of flesh-eating bacterium to good use,” said Mark Howarth, Ph.D., who led the research. “We have engineered one of its proteins into a molecular superglue that adheres so tightly that the set-up we used to measure the strength actually broke. It resists high and low temperatures, acids and other harsh conditions and seals quickly. With this material we can lock proteins together in ways that could underpin better diagnostic tests — for early detection of cancer cells circulating in the blood, for instance. There are many uses in research, such as probing how the forces inside cells change the biochemistry and affect health and disease.”

Howarth’s team at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom genetically engineered the glue from a protein, FbaB, that helps Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes) bacteria infect cells. S. pyogenes is one of the microbes that can cause the rare necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria syndrome, in which difficult-to-treat infections destroy body tissue.

They split FbaB into two parts, a larger protein and a smaller protein subunit, termed a peptide. Abbreviating S. pyogenes as “Spy,” they named the small peptide “SpyTag” and the larger protein “SpyCatcher.” The gluing action occurs when SpyTag and SpyCatcher meet. They quickly lock together by forming one of the strongest possible chemical bonds. SpyCatcher and SpyTag can be attached to the millions of proteins in the human body and other living things, thus gluing proteins together.

In an advance reported at the meeting, Howarth described how Jacob Fierer, a graduate student on the research team, greatly reduced the size of the SpyCatcher part of the technology. That achievement makes the technology more flexible, enabling scientists to connect proteins into new architectures, he said.

One of the applications on the horizon involves testing the technology as a new way to detect “circulating tumor cells,” or CTCs. Tumors shed these cells into the bloodstream, where they may act as seeds, spreading or metastasizing cancer from the original site to other parts of the body. That spreading is the reason why cancer is such a serious health problem. Detecting CTCs is an active area of research worldwide because of its potential for early diagnosis of cancer — from blood samples rather than biopsies — and determining when new treatments may be needed to prevent the disease from spreading.

Howarth said that the Spy technology has advantages over other molecular gluing systems that are available. SpyCatcher and SpyTag, for instance, can glue two proteins together at any point in the protein. “That flexibility allows us many different ways to label proteins and gives us new approaches to assemble proteins together for diagnostic tests,” Howarth explained.

Howarth and colleagues are working with Isis Innovation, the University of Oxford’s technology transfer company, to find potential partners to bring the Spy system to the market.

The researchers acknowledge funding from the Clarendon Fund.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Cheap Diagnostics with a Portable "Paper Machine"
Scientists have developed a cheap, portable system for point of care diagnostics for a range of infectious diseases, genetic conditions and cancer.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Scientific News
The Changing Tides of the In Vitro Diagnostics Market
With the increasing focus in personalized medicine, diagnostics plays a crucial role in patient monitoring.
Poor Survival Rates in Leukemia Linked to Persistent Genetic Mutations
For patients with an often-deadly form of leukemia, new research suggests that lingering cancer-related mutations – detected after initial treatment with chemotherapy – are associated with an increased risk of relapse and poor survival.
'Fountain of Youth' Protein Points to Possible Human Health Benefit
Patients with higher blood levels of growth factor have lower risk of cardiovascular problems.
Signature of Microbiomes Linked to Schizophrenia
Studying microbiomes in throat may help identify causes and treatments of brain disorder.
Imaging Software Could Speed Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Technology could improve access to diagnostic services in developing countries.
Data Mining DNA For Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Genes
A new Northwestern Medicine genome-wide association study of PCOS – the first of its kind to focus on women of European ancestry – has provided important new insights into the underlying biology of the disorder.
Algorithm Interprets Breathing Difficulties to Aid in Medical Care
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed an efficient algorithm that can interpret the wheezing of patients with breathing difficulties to give medical providers information about what’s happening in the lungs.
Researchers Develop qPCR Prognosis Test for NSCLC Patients
A nine-gene molecular prognostic index (MPI) for patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was able to provide accurate survival stratification and could potentially inform the use of adjuvant therapy in patients struggling with the disease.
Genetic Test Could Improve Blood Cancer Treatment
Testing for genetic risk factors could improve treatment for myeloma – a cancer of the blood and bone marrow – by helping doctors identify patients at risk of developing more aggressive disease.
PTR-MS Breath Test Shows Potential for Detecting Liver Disease
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have published results that suggest a non-invasive breath test for liver disease using an IONICON PTR-MS.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!