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Iowa State University researcher uncovers potential key to curing tuberculosis

AMES, Iowa - Researchers at Iowa State University have identified an enzyme that helps make tuberculosis resistant to a human's natural defense system. Researchers have also found a method to possibly neutralize that enzyme, which may someday lead to a cure for tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is a contagious disease that is on the rise, killing 1.5 to 2 million people worldwide annually.

Reuben Peters, associate professor in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, is leading the team of scientists from Iowa State; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, that is attempting to find ways to minimize the disease. The group had their research published in the Aug. 28 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and their research is also scheduled to be the cover article in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

When most infections are introduced into humans, the body defends itself with certain cells -- called macrophage cells -- that kill the invading micro-organisms. The macrophage cells engulf and destroy these microbes, such as the Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Peters found that the mycobacterium tuberculosis produces a defensive molecule that prevents the macrophage cells from destroying them. Peters and his team named the defensive molecule edaxadiene.

Peters' next step was to try to find molecules that bind with the edaxadiene-producing enzymes from tuberculosis and neutralize them. This makes the tuberculosis cells unable to produce edaxadiene. Without edaxadiene, tuberculosis cells would have a reduced ability to resist being killed by the macrophage cells.

Peters thinks he may have already found one.

"We have inhibitors that bind tightly to one of the enzymes that make edaxadiene in a test tube," said Peters.

Finding an in

Contact: Reuben Peters
Iowa State University

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