Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chemists develop switchable antibiotic

Date:
September 16, 2013
Source:
University of Groningen
Summary:
Scientists have developed an antibiotic whose activity can be controlled using light. It is possible to ‘switch on’ the substance immediately before use, after which it will slowly lose its activity. Thus release of the active antibiotic into the environment might be prevented.

E. coli grown on an agar plate containing UV-activated antibiotic shows the pattern from a template held between it and the lamp.
Credit: Nature Chemistry

Scientists at the University of Groningen have developed an antibiotic whose activity can be controlled using light. It is possible to 'switch on' the substance immediately before use, after which it will slowly lose its activity. Thus release of the active antibiotic into the environment might be prevented. This discovery was published on the website of the scientific journal Nature Chemistry on 15 September 2013.

Antibiotics protect us against lethal infections and are also widely used in agriculture. However, after use they end up in the environment, for example through the sewage system, where they can promote the development of resistant bacterial strains.

With this in mind, the Groningen scientists investigated whether an antibiotic could be developed whose activity could be controlled. After all, if only deactivated antibiotics enter the environment, there will be no risk of resistance.

Variants

Ben Feringa, professor of organic chemistry, is a pioneer in the field of light-activated molecular switches. His PhD student Willem Velema created variants of an antibiotic to which a photoswitchable group was attached. 'It is difficult to predict what will happen to the activity when a group in a molecule is changed', explains Velema. The new group will, after all, influence the effect of the antibiotic. 'And that will have to happen in exactly the right way.'

Velema made nine variants, one of which appeared to work very well in tests that were carried out in collaboration with the research group of molecular biologist Arnold Driessen. The switch ensures that the antibiotic does not work in the normal position. However, after radiation with ultraviolet light, part of the switch molecule flips, activating the antibiotic. In chemical terms: the switchable group changes from a trans-isomer to a cis-isomer.

Half-life

In the Nature Chemistry article, the researchers demonstrate that it is possible to switch on the antibiotic at any time. Subsequently, the molecule flips back by itself from the active cis-isomer to the non-active trans-isomer. The half-life is approximately two hours at body temperature.

Feringa emphasizes that the experiments are only meant to demonstrate that it is possible to control the activity of an antibiotic using light. 'The path from this idea to a working drug is very long, it could be another ten years.' In addition to switchable antibiotics not burdening the environment, they could also be used to treat very specific areas in the body. Feringa: 'You could take an inactive antibiotic for a skin infection and then activate it at the site where it is required. No useful bacteria in the intestines will be killed this way.'

Bacterial growth

For the time being, the switchable antibiotic is especially useful for research. 'It is possible to inhibit the growth of bacteria very specifically at a particular site and at a specific time.' You could, for example, investigate which factors influence the growth of the bacterium and the action of the antibiotic or the origin of resistance.

'But this article's most important message is that it is possible to externally control the action of a drug, composed of a relatively small molecule, in this case using light,' says Feringa. 'That is a whole new way of thinking about drug research.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Groningen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Willem A. Velema, Jan Pieter Van Der Berg, Mickel J. Hansen, Wiktor Szymanski, Arnold J. M. Driessen, and Ben L. Feringa. Optical control of antibacterial activity. Nature Chemistry, September 2013 DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1750)

Cite This Page:

University of Groningen. "Chemists develop switchable antibiotic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916091019.htm>.
University of Groningen. (2013, September 16). Chemists develop switchable antibiotic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916091019.htm
University of Groningen. "Chemists develop switchable antibiotic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916091019.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Haitians receive the second dose of the vaccine against cholera as part of the UN's vaccination campaign. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Doctors once thought artificial sweeteners lacked the health risks of sugar, but a new study says they can impact blood sugar levels the same way. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) A healthy British volunteer is to become the first person to receive a new vaccine for the Ebola virus after US President Barack Obama called for action against the epidemic and warned it was "spiralling out of control." Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Researchers are puzzled as to why obesity rates remain relatively stable as average waistlines continue to expand. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins