September 25, 2012

Eye proteins have germ-killing power, could lead to new antimicrobial drugs, study finds

When it comes to germ-busting power, the eyes have it, according to a discovery by UC Berkeley researchers that could lead to new, inexpensive antimicrobial drugs.

A team of UC Berkeley vision scientists has found that small fragments of keratin protein in the eye play a key role in warding off pathogens. The researchers also put synthetic versions of these keratin fragments to the test against an array of nasty pathogens. These synthetic molecules effectively zapped bacteria that can lead to flesh-eating disease and strep throat (Streptococcus pyogenes), diarrhea (Escherichia coli), staph infections (Staphylococcus aureus) and cystic fibrosis lung infections (Pseudomonas aeruginosa).