Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have identified a new protein that helps an oral bacterium thrive in other locations around the body. The discovery could eventually lead to the development of new drugs that specifically target the protein.
“This bacterium is common in the mouths of humans and generally doesn’t cause disease in that location. However, it can travel through the bloodstream to other areas of the body, which leads to some pretty big health concerns,” says Dr. Kirsten Wolthers, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.
Most notably, this bacteria is prevalent in the tumors of colorectal cancer patients. The presence of the bacteria can contribute to tumor growth, spread of cancer to other sites in the body, and resistance to chemotherapy.
With the help of the CMCF beamline at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), located at the University of Saskatchewan, Wolthers and her colleagues determined that the new protein they identified enables the bacteria to take essential nutrients, such as iron, from our blood cells.
Read more on the CLS website
Image: Alexis Gauvin, inspecting a protein sample for particulate matter, using the glove box. Gauvin is a biochemistry student and a member of Dr. Kirsten Wolthers’s research group in the Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus).