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Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have discovered a new way to create effective substitutes for antibiotics based on a combination of amino acids and fatty acids. Bacteria are not able to develop resistance to these substitutes, so this is their great advantage, as commonly used antibiotics are increasingly losing their effectiveness.
Prof. Amram Mor and students in his Haifa research team - Keren Marinka and Shahar Rotem of the biotechnology and food engineering faculty - found a way to preserve peptides in the body. Peptides are tiny proteins found in all organisms that constitute part of the immune system. They last only a short time, even minutes, but the Technion researchers found a way to stabilize and preserve them in the body for hours by creating a unique structure. Their study was published recently in the journal Chemistry and Biology.
"We found a way to shorten the natural molecule and thus reduce the cost of its production, while at the same time making it more efficient so it can successfully fight bacteria and other pathogens," said Mor.
"With help from Prof. Uri Kogan and Dr. Irina Fortania of our faculty, we added fatty acid to the short molecule, and its activity improved even more. We are also able to decide which bacterium to attack with our peptides."
The researchers show in the article how they use a fatty acid to activate the peptide so it acts specifically against Pseudonomas bacteria, which usually causes lung infections. It is important that the peptide function specifically against the bacterium so as not to harm healthy cells or beneficial bacteria that form the natural flora of the body. The team thus produced a pseudo-peptide that breaks the pathogenic bacteria down.
"This involves selective and specific construction against traditional pathogens and increasing the efficacy of treatment while significantly reducing toxicity and side effects," Mor explained.
Mor has been studying peptides for 20 years, during which he isolated a group of these proteins taken from frogs that live in trees. He found that these peptides were no less effective over time than antibiotics, which need to become 100 times bigger in their dosage to kill pathogens as time passes. There is no need, he said, to increase the dosage of the peptides.