Tuesday September 17, 2019

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Pose One of the Biggest Threats to Global Health; Researchers Working on Cell Killing Machine

The nanomachines can drill into cancer cells, causing the cells’ nucleus to disintegrate into fragments

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antibiotic resistant bacteria, cell killing machine
This video screen shot shows what happens when nanomachines drill through the cell membrane. The tiny motors drill through the nucleus and the entire cell disintegrates. VOA

A team of researchers across three universities is working on a cell-killing machine invisible to the naked eye. “We want to be bacteria’s worst nightmare,” said James Tour, T.T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry at Rice University in Houston. He is also a professor of materials science and nanoengineering, and computer science.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose one of the biggest threats to global health, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers at Rice University, Durham University in Britain and North Carolina State University may have discovered a way to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

They’re experimenting with tiny, manmade nanomachines that can drill into a cell, killing it. The machines are single molecule motors that can spin at about 3 million rotations a second when a blue light shines on them. As they spin, they drill into the cell. Harmful bacteria cannot mutate to overcome this type of weapon, Tour said.

“We may have found something that the cell could never build a resistance to,” he added. The nanomachines are so small that about 50,0000 of them can fit across the diameter of a human hair. In comparison, only about 50 cells can take up that amount of space. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not the only enemies this weapon can fight.

Cancer killer

The nanomachines can drill into cancer cells, causing the cells’ nucleus to disintegrate into fragments. “We’ve tried four different types, and every cancer cell that it touches is toast,” said Tour, whose team tested the nanomachines on a couple strains of human breast cancer cells, cancerous skin cells and pancreatic cancer cells.

The way it works is that a peptide, also a molecule that consists of amino acids, is added to the nanomotor. That peptide recognizes specific cells and binds the nanomachine to that cell so that only cancer cells, not healthy cells, are targeted. A blue light activates the machine. “Generally, it’s not just one nanomachine, it’s 50, and each cell is going to get 50 holes drilled in it generally,” Tour said.

The nanomachines can fight cancerous cells in the mouth, upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts and bladder “wherever you can get a scope in, a light, apply it right there, and use the light” to activate the motors, Tour said. It would only take a few minutes to kill cancerous cells with nanomachines, in contrast to days or longer using radiation or chemotherapy, Tour said.

antibiotic resistant bacteria, cell killing machine
The nanomachines can drill into cancer cells, causing the cells’ nucleus to disintegrate into fragments. Pixabay

Sculpt away fat

In another application, nanomachines could be used to sculpt away fat cells when applied onto the skin through a gel. “You just take a bright light and just pass it over and these start attacking the adipocytes, which are the fat cells and blow those open,” Tour said.

ALSO READ: Researchers Discover Viruses in Kitchen Sponges that can Kill Bacteria

Next steps

Researchers have only worked with nanomachines in a lab, so using this method in a clinical setting is still some time off. Later this year, researchers will start testing nanomachines on staphylococcus bacteria skin infections on live rodents.

One challenge scientists will have to overcome as nanomachine research progresses is how to get the blue light deep into the body if the motors are to fight bacteria or tumor cells that are well below the skin’s surface. (VOA)

Next Story

“The Cancer Cells Have An Unlimited Appetite For Nutrients,” said Xiaoyong Yang, Professor at Yale

Scientists at Yale Cancer Scientists have uncovered the workings of a metabolic pathway or "gauge" that lets cancer cells detect when they have enough nutrients around them to grow

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Cancer, cells, metabolism, research, treatment, science
the workings of a metabolic pathway or "gauge" that lets cancer cells detect when they have enough nutrients around them to grow.. Pixabay

Scientists at Yale Cancer Scientists at Yale Cancer Center in the US have uncovered the workings of a metabolic pathway or “gauge” that lets cancer cells detect when they have enough nutrients around them to grow.

The researchers hope that drugs designed to turn down the gauge may eventually aid in treating many forms of cancer.

“The cancer cell has an unlimited appetite for nutrients,” said Xiaoyong Yang, Associate Professor at Yale Cancer Center and senior author of the study.

Cancer, cells, metabolism, research, treatment, science
Cancer cells in culture from human connective tissue, illuminated by darkfield amplified contrast, at a magnification of 500x. These cells can be compared to normal cells. Wikimedia Commons

“But in many parts of the body, especially for solid tumours, nutrients and oxygen are often limited, so the cell has to make a decision to grow or survive. We have shown how the cell adapts to its microenvironment, detecting nutrient availability to make this decision,” Yang said.

Yang and his colleagues studied the role of a process called O-GlcNAc protein modification in cancer metabolism.

O-GlcNAc modification alters the function of proteins by attaching certain kinds of sugar molecules and is thought to generally act as a nutrient sensor for the cell.

ALSO READ: Salmonella Bacteria Found In MDH ‘Sambhar Masala’ In US

“We were interested in this modification because it is a common feature across many types of cancer,” Yang noted.

The team began by examining a wide range of human cancer tissue samples for signs of O-GlcNAc modification, including levels of expression for the OGT and OGA enzymes.

They found that both OGT and OGA are expressed at higher levels in many cancers than in normal tissues.

Their findings were published in the journal Oncogene. (IANS)