Hard Science

Scientists Develop the First Synthetic Model of the Bacterial Outer Membrane

Miguel SantosOctober 22nd 2015
The Breakthrough

Researchers from Newcastle University and the Science and Technology Facilities Council have produced the first synthetic model of a bacterial outer membrane. This breakthrough gives researchers a incredibly valuable tool in the development of more effective antibiotics. The structure of the bacterial membrane was determined with a polarised neutron reflectometer (POLREF), an instrument that allows for extremely precise measurement of film layers at the atomic level. Professor of Structural Biochemistry at Newcastle University Jeremy Lakey says, “Our model of the bacterial outer membrane can be used as a simulator to test how antibiotic molecules can be made to cross this critical barrier.”

Improved Bacterial Studies

Bacteria has been notoriously difficult to study in depth due its incredibly small size and complex structure, particularly for a group of single-celled bacteria called Gram-negatives, which have an extra wall around their cells that make them especially resistant to treatments. Dr. Luke Clifton from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS Neutron and Muon source says, “We now are able to undertake studies on model bacterial membranes under conditions which much more closely resemble those found of live bacteria than has previously been possible.”

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