A method for controlling bacterial activity without antibiotics by interfering with their communication process has been developed by a young Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher.
For his work, Adel Jabbour will be presented with a Kaye Innovation Award on June 6 during the 68th meeting of the Hebrew University Board of Governors. Jabbour, a Ph.D. student, conducted his work under the supervision of Prof. Morris Srebnik of the School of Pharmacy and Prof. Doron Steinberg of the Faculty of Dental Medicine. Also working on the project is graduate student Moshe Bronstein
Most human and animal diseases are associated with bacteria that are assembled in “communities,” called biofilms, that attach themselves to many surfaces, such as live tissues, implants and teeth. Biofilm can also be found on artificial surfaces such as water pipes or air-conditioning ducts.
Only recently has it been discovered that the bacteria assembled in biofilms have a network of communication between them called “quorum sensing,” which controls their collective activity (or lack thereof). These sensing signals control the physiology and pathogenicity of the bacteria in the biofilms. A boron-based molecule that is produced by these bacteria, called auto inducer-2, controls the signals in this quorum sensing process.
Jabbour has succeeded in synthesizing modified chemical compounds, resembling the structure of the natural auto inducer-2, that can disrupt the signaling. By altering the molecular structure in these compounds, Jabbour was able to show that it is possible to control the quorum sensing responses in order to “deceive” the bacteria. The modified compounds distort the signaling that sets off the bacterial changes, making it possible to seriously hamper the bacterial action, or, if so desired, even enhance it (in those cases where the bacteria are beneficial).
Control over quorum sensing provides a promising avenue for future treatment of bacterial pathogenic activity without having to resort to antibiotic drugs with their accompanying disadvantages. On the other hand, enhancing quorum sensing could prove useful in agriculture, biotechnology and the food industry, where increasing bacterial activity would be beneficiary.
A U.S. patent has been filed based on the compounds developed by Jabbour, and further commercialization is being negotiated through the Hebrew University’s Yissum Research Development Company.
Jabbour, 32, lives in Upper Nazareth with his wife Banan, a pediatric resident in at Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem. He is a graduate of St. Joseph High School in Nazareth and obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the Hebrew University and his M.Sc. in pharmacy with honor from the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy. He is currently completing his Ph.D. studies at the School of Pharmacy and the Institute of Dental Sciences at the university under the supervision of Professors Srebnik and Steinberg.