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Texas A&M University's polymer innovation breaks through antibiotic resistance

2024.02.28 20:16:48 Seungmin Lee
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[A photo of examples of antibiotics. Photo Credit: Unsplash]

In the relentless battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, scientists at Texas A&M University have made a significant stride, offering a ray of hope in the face of an escalating public health threat.

 

The team, led by Dr. Quentin Michaudel, has developed a novel family of polymers capable of eliminating bacteria without triggering antibiotic resistance.

 

This groundbreaking discovery, detailed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on December 11, holds immense promise in addressing the pressing issue of antibiotic resistance, which poses a substantial risk to global health.

 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause over 2.8 million infections annually.

 

This growing threat renders common injuries and infections into potentially lethal conditions, emphasizing the urgent need for innovative solutions to combat bacterial resistance.

 

Traditional antibiotics face the challenge of bacteria developing resistance over time, necessitating the exploration of alternative approaches to effectively tackle bacterial infections.

 

The collaborative efforts at Texas A&M have resulted in the synthesis of a new family of polymers that could revolutionize the fight against antibiotic resistance.

 

The key innovation lies in the polymers' ability to kill bacteria by disrupting their membranes without inducing resistance.

 

Dr. Michaudel explains that the polymers operate through a mechanism to which bacteria do not seem to develop resistance, providing a promising avenue for future antibacterial treatments.

 

Working at the intersection of organic chemistry and polymer science, the Michaudel Laboratory meticulously designed a positively charged molecule that could be stitched together using the AquaMet catalyst- a crucial element in the process.

 

The catalyst's unique properties, including its ability to tolerate high concentrations of charges and water solubility, proved essential to the successful synthesis of the polymers.

 

The researchers subjected the polymers to testing against two significant types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

 

Collaborating with Dr. Jessica Schiffman's group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, they eagerly awaited the results while also assessing the polymers' toxicity against human red blood cells.

 

One common challenge in antibacterial polymer development is achieving selectivity between bacteria and human cells when targeting cellular membranes.

 

Dr. Michaudel emphasized the importance of striking the right balance between inhibiting bacterial growth effectively and avoiding indiscriminate harm to various cell types.

 

The team scrupulously evaluated their polymers' toxicity against human red blood cells, ensuring that the innovation remains a viable and safe option for future therapeutic applications.

 

The success of the project is attributed to the multidisciplinary nature of scientific innovation and the collaboration of dedicated researchers across the Texas A&M campus and beyond.

 

The team's ability to leverage the expertise of various groups, including collaborators from the University of Virginia, highlights the collaborative effort required for such groundbreaking research.

 

With initial success in hand, the Michaudel Lab now focuses on enhancing the polymers' activity against bacteria, specifically targeting their selectivity for bacterial cells over human cells.

 

The team aims to synthesize various analogs to further refine the polymers' properties before progressing to in vivo assays, which are used to conduct preclinical and clinical evaluations of candidate compounds and their formulations.

 

This iterative approach reflects the commitment to developing a safe, effective solution to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 

The development of these polymers marks a crucial step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

 

If proven effective and safe in subsequent studies, these polymers could serve as a groundbreaking alternative to traditional antibiotics.

 

Their unique mechanism of action, coupled with the absence of induced resistance, positions them as a promising tool in the ongoing battle against bacterial infections.

 

To conclude, Texas A&M University's innovative polymer research represents a beacon of hope in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 

Developing polymers capable of killing bacteria without inducing resistance holds immense promise for future antibacterial treatments.

 

As the team continues to refine and optimize these polymers, the potential impact on global public health is significant, offering a glimmer of hope in the face of an escalating threat to human well-being.


Seungmin Lee / Grade 11
North London Collegiate School Jeju