A group of researchers from the University of Oxford believe they have engineered a protein from flesh-eating bacteria that acts as a molecular superglue and could be used to help detect cancer cells.
We’ve put one kind of flesh-eating bacterium to good use, said Mark Howarth, PhD, who led the research.
We have engineered one of its proteins into a molecular superglue that adheres so tightly that the set-up we used to measure the strength actually broke. It resists high and low temperatures, acids and other harsh conditions and seals quickly.
With this material we can lock proteins together in ways that could underpin better diagnostic tests for early detection of cancer cells circulating in the blood, for instance.
Howarth’s team genetically engineered glue from a protein, FbaB, that helps Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria infect cells. S pyogenes is one of the microbes that can cause the fasciitis in which difficult-to-treat infections destroy body tissue.