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Inside the Lab Microbiology and immunology, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Technology and innovation

A SNAPPy Solution

As multi-drug-resistant Gram negative bacteria become an increasingly urgent global threat, the need for effective treatments grows accordingly. Gram negative “superbugs” are particularly nefarious, because their lack of a thick peptidoglycan layer means there’s one less thing for antibiotics to target. But rather than continuing to explore the well-trodden avenues of drug development, our group at the University of Melbourne took a different tack: developing structurally nano-engineered antimicrobial peptide polymers, or SNAPPs – star-shaped nanoparticles used to combat bacterial infections (1). SNAPPs contain peptide sequences based on the standard linear antimicrobial peptides, but their three-dimensional shape allows them to better disrupt the outer membrane of the bacteria. The actual “killing mechanism” is multimodal (including membrane destabilization, unregulated ion movement, and induction of the apoptotic-like death pathway), but it’s initiated when a SNAPP interacts with – and destroys – the integrity of a Gram negative bacterium’s outer membrane.

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About the Author

Eric Reynolds

Eric Reynolds is a Melbourne Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, head of the Melbourne Dental School, and a board member and CEO of the Oral Health CRC, Melbourne, Australia.

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