Antimicrobial Peptides seen by Neutrons: from basic mechanism to the next generation antibiotics

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are found in many species throughout nature to fight pathogens such as bacteria or even by bacteria themselves to fight other bacteria. Human saliva and sweat contains AMPs as a part of the innate immune system to fight infections. Some AMPs act against fungi, viruses and even tumors. These molecules have been around for hundreds of millions of years and have largely been able to avoid bacterial resistance. Yet, they are surprisingly little used in treatments – mainly because they are rather unstable towards enzymes and may be toxic to other cells.

In order to utilize these compounds, more research is needed in order to understand how they work and how they need to be modified to enhance stability and reduce toxicity.

In this project we have have gathered a multi-disciplinary Nordic team to address these challenges. By combining experts within fields synthetic chemistry of antibiotics with experts within physical chemistry and neutron scattering, we will help to understand how these fascinating materials work and how they can be used towards the growing threats of multi-resistant bacteria. Neutron scattering will provide the key to resolving on a molecular scale, how the peptides act on lipid membranes, the main target of their antimicrobial action.

Learning from this insight, we will facilitate the design new materials that can be used for therapeutic purposes. 

Facts about the project
Project manager

Reidar Lund, University of Oslo.

Funding: NOK 5 435 152