Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
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
Microfluidic Device Mixes And Matches DNA For Synthetic Biology
Researchers have developed a microfluidic device that quickly builds packages of DNA and delivers them into bacteria or yeast for further testing.
Monday, July 06, 2015
Artificial Pancreas Controls Diabetes
Scientists are reporting the development of an implantable “artificial pancreas” that continuously measures a person’s blood sugar, or glucose, level and can automatically release insulin as needed.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Expanding the Code of Life With New “Letters”
Researchers have developed a new nucleotide pair that can be added to DNA, raising the possibility that entirely new proteins could be created for medical uses.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Bioresorbable Electronic Stent Could Provide Feedback, Therapy
Researchers have developed and tested a drug releasing electronic stent which could significantly reduce the risk associated with traditional mesh tube stents.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
How Used Coffee-Grounds Could Make Some Food More Healthful
Phenols in coffee ground extracts could be used as additives to enhances other food products.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Kimchi-based Preservative Used in Cosmetics is Not So Natural
Scientists report that kimchi-based preservative marketed as “all-natural” contains synthetic ingredients.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Novel Nanoparticles Could Save Soldiers’ Lives After Explosions
Researchers paired clot-promoting nanoparticles with a corticosteroid that stops inflammation.
Friday, April 17, 2015
A Novel Method for Portable Detection of Potent Drugs Known as ‘Bath Salts’
Researchers developed a low-cost, disposable and rapid platform for detecting bath salts.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Stinky Gases Emanating from Landfills Could Transform into Clean Energy
Research will be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ Could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy
A sponge-like plastic that sops up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) might ease our transition away from polluting fossil fuels and toward new energy sources, such as hydrogen.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Making Cashews Safer for Those with Allergies
Scientists now develop a method to process cashews to make them safer to eat.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
A New Solution for Storing Fuel for Alternative Energy
Scientists are developing a novel way to store hydrogen to smooth out the long-awaited transition away from fossil fuels.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Whey Beneficially Affects Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Obese Adults
New evidence shores up findings that whey protein could have health benefits for people who are obese and do not yet have diabetes.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
Special Air Filter Blocks Small Particles Called UFPs from Getting Inside Cars
Newly developed HECA filters could reduce UFP levels by 93 percent.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Utilization of Circulating Biomarkers for Minimally Invasive Diagnostics Development
Market Trends in Biofluid-based Liquid Biopsies: Deploying Circulating Biomarkers in the Clinic. Enal Razvi, Ph.D., Managing Director, Select Biosciences, Inc.
Self-Assembling, Biomimetic Membranes May Aid Water Filtration
A synthetic membrane that self assembles and is easily produced may lead to better gas separation, water purification, drug delivery and DNA recognition, according to an international team of researchers.
Study Finds Brain Chemicals that Keep Wakefulness in Check
Researchers to develop new drugs that promote better sleep, or control hyperactivity in people with mania.
Sorting Through Cellular Statistics
Aaron Dinner, professor in chemistry, and his graduate student Herman Gudjonson are trying to read the manual of life, DNA, as part of the Dinner group’s research into bioinformatics—the application of statistics to biological research.
Playing 'Tag' with Pollution lets Scientists See Who's It
Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot — and where.
Women’s Immune System Genes Operate Differently from Men’s
A new technology reveals that immune system genes switch on and off differently in women and men, and the source of that variation is not primarily in the DNA.
Long Telomeres Associated with Increased Lung Cancer Risk
Genetic predisposition for long telomeres predicts increased lung adenocarcinoma risk.
First Artificial Ribosome Designed
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins and enzymes within the cell.
High-Resolution 3D Images Reveal the Muscle Mitochondrial Power Grid
NIH mouse study overturns scientific ideas on energy distribution in muscle.
Expanding the Brain
A team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
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!