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It sounds like science fiction, but Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes) causes necrotizing fasciitis – a rare flesh-eating syndrome that is very difficult to treat, and scientists have split one of its proteins to create a powerful molecular “superglue.” A research team from the University of Oxford split the FbaB protein into two parts – one large and one small, which, when they bind together, form one of the strongest chemical bonds possible. Reporting their findings at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Mark Howarth, Ph.D and his team note that this new superglue has far-reaching disease detection applications.
The researchers nicknamed the smaller protein SpyTag and the larger peptide is called SpyCatcher. When they meet, they form a chemical glue that can be used to bind to other proteins in the body that will allow scientists to perform better diagnostic tests – including the early detection of cancerous cells circulating through the blood.
“We’ve turned the tables and put one kind of flesh-eating bacterium to good use,” lead researcher Howarth told Physorg. And since this new molecular superglue is able to bind proteins along any point, it is much more flexible than others.
“That flexibility allows us many different ways to label proteins and gives us new approaches to assemble proteins together for diagnostic tests,” Howarth told the paper.
While presently still in its research phase, Howarth and his team are currently scouting out potential avenues to bring this extraordinary innovation into the market, which could be a particular boon for researchers who have sought for so long to defeat cancer.
Image of man who contracted necrotizing fasciitis, Imgur