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‘Death Star’ Bacterial Structures Could Be Drug Delivery Tool

‘Death Star’ Bacterial Structures Could Be Drug Delivery Tool

My research focuses on probiotic
bacteria and how probiotic bacteria influence development both in a marine
context for marine organisms and also, this is spilled over into looking at
microbes and how they benefit humans. They are seven days today. Pretty
confident yeah? Yeah. To do this, I have a team of undergraduates and graduate
students, and a postdoc. In the lab we work on a marine tubeworm called hydroides elegans it’s this small tube worm that actually is a pest in the shipping
industry because they stick to the bottoms of hulls and then cause a lot of
drag, and that causes fuel consumption. But because they’re pests they multiply
quickly and that makes them really good study organisms. So we can actually see
the syringe structures produced by bacteria using this microscope and we
can also look at the tube worm larvae and watch them undergo metamorphosis in
response to the bacteria. So, we’re interested in how the injection systems
are inducing metamorphosis and so we’re looking at the cargo, which is inside the
injection system. And my role was to then purify the cargo which is a protein and
then using electroporation we essentially zap the worms getting the
protein in and showing that the protein itself is able to induce metamorphosis.
Lots of proteins as therapeutics are difficult to get into human cells or
animal cells because of their protein structure but the syringe could be used
as a delivery system to get proteins into the cells and then allow them to do
their job once they’re in there. So, that makes it a big therapeutic leap in terms
of drug delivery. One potential application for delivery of proteins to
human cells could be for example vaccines. You could also imagine that we
could target cancer cells using these syringe structures and try to kill them
by injecting a toxic protein. Another application could be delivering peptides
that are pain blockers and which could be useful alternatives
to opioid treatments. So, these syringe structures are unique because they don’t
target bacterial cells, which other people have shown similar structures can
do, but these are unique because they can target animal cells and that means that
we could potentially use them to inject therapeutics into animal cells including
human cells.

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