Andrei Korostelev, PhD, professor of RNA therapeutics, studies how bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, which has become a problem in treating infections.
“Antibiotic resistance could lead to the next global health crisis,” Dr. Korostelev said. “We know that some bacteria have already become resistant to every widely used antibiotic.”
He said a recent survey of health care professionals showed that nearly 60 percent of participants encountered patients whose infections did not respond to any antibiotic. This research suggests that the arsenal of effective antibiotics is exhausted and needs to be replenished, which will require studies into how infections progress, how antibiotics help kill bacteria and how resistant bacteria are. are made.
“An antibiotic is like a wrench thrown into the work of an assembly line jamming a step in production,” Korostelev said. “Most antibiotics block one of the central assembly lines on which all bacteria depend for their genetic code to reproduce and grow.”
Korostelev’s laboratory at the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Chan Medical School studies ribosomes, which are cellular machines that make proteins. Ribosomes work nonstop to make proteins so that bacteria can grow and divide. His lab works to understand how ribosomes read the genetic code stored in RNA and how they make proteins. The major technology for these studies is cryo-EM, which is available at the medical school.
“Thanks to work done in multiple laboratories, we now know the atomic structure of the ribosome. We also know that antibiotics — which are thousands of times smaller than ribosomes — bind to and jam this large molecular machine,” They said.
This knowledge has already been used to create new and improved antibiotics that can help fight some antibiotic-resistant infections. But Korostelev said there is still more research to be done. Bacteria can sense jam ribosomes and slow their growth, giving them time to develop antibiotic resistance.
“We need to learn more about the biology of bacterial cells, so that we can expand the arsenal of effective antibiotics to be better prepared to fight antibiotic-resistant infections of the future,” he said.
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