November 11, 2020
Antibiotic resistance poses a major challenge for medicine. Many substances that could potentially kill bacteria are known. However, the question of how they can penetrate the pathogens in order to render them harmless is often unresolved. Dr. Ulrich Kleinekathöfer, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Jacobs University Bremen, is working on improving a method for identifying successful antibiotic molecules in a new research project. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with 200,000 euros over a period of three years.
Bacteria have pore proteins in their membrane that are necessary for exchanging substances with their environment. Scientists use these proteins to introduce antibiotic molecules. However, this still works far too rarely. And even if it does succeed, it is anything but certain that the molecules will do their job and not immediately diffuse out again.
To calculate the transport of antibiotic molecules through nanopores into bacteria, the research project will use "Brownian dynamics" – a physical method that deals with the transport of atoms. Professor Kleinekathöfer and his team aim to further develop and improve the method. "Our hope is that at the end of the research project, we will be able to examine more potential molecules to see if they fit through the pores than is currently the case with other methods. Because this is the bottleneck in antibiotics research," said Professor Kleinekathöfer.
The scientist also wants to make the results of the basic research available to other research groups. It is conceivable that the further development of the method could be transferred to other problems and contribute to the fight against diseases. One possible area of application are anthrax toxins, a protein mixture produced by the anthrax pathogen which is at the core of the danger of an anthrax infection.
Questions are answered by:
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kleinekathöfer
Professor of Theoretical Physics
Phone: +49 421 200-3523
Email: u.kleinekathoefer [at] jacobs-university.de