Gram-negative bacteria are a class of pathogens that includes drug-resistant varieties of bacteria that cause pneumonia, sepsis and other deadly diseases.
Ben-Jacob said cancer researchers have previously shown that they can tag AMPs with special "marker" molecules that allow the AMPs to penetrate and kill cancer cells. The markers allow the AMPs to be taken inside the cancer cells, something they cannot normally do.
"Once inside the cancer cells, the AMPs target and damage the cell's power plant, an organelle called the mitochondria, which has a double-layered membrane that is remarkably similar to that of Gram-negative bacteria," he said.
Though research has shown that AMPs can kill cancer cells, scientists are concerned that cancer cells could develop resistance to the compounds. In part, this concern arises from the fact that AMPs are fairly common in nature and that some organisms already have genetic mutations that allow them to evade AMP attacks.
To circumvent these natural defenses, MD Anderson researchers Wadih Arap and Renata Pasqualini led an effort a few years ago to create a synthetic version of a natural corkscrew-shaped AMP called KLAKLAK-2. Like all naturally occurring AMPs, KLAKLAK-2 has a left-handed twist -- much like the threads of a screw that turn clockwise. To make the molecule more difficult for cancer cells to fight, the MD Anderson team built a right-handed, "counterclockwise" version of the molecule called D-KLAKLAK-2, with the "D" denoting right-handedness. In its most recent studies, which also appear this week in PNAS, the MD Anderson team found that D-KLAKLAK-2 is an effective killer of Gram-negative bacterial pathogens, including several types that have
|Contact: Jade Boyd|