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The lab of Berkeley Optometry’s Dr. Suzanne Fleiszig has received a patent for a newly identified type of anti-microbial peptide that kills pathogens that cause infections. First discovered in human corneal epithelial cells, the peptides could one day be used in medical devices and surgical dressings to fight infections.
The keratin-derived antimicrobial peptides are toxic to bacteria, but not to the host cell, making them a safe “bio-compatible” method for disarming a group of especially nasty pathogens, such as those that cause Pseudomonas and Streptococcal infections. While there is years of further research and testing to be done before the peptides can be used on people, exploring new methods for fighting infections has become critical as resistance to the current class of antibiotic medicines continues to grow.
The discovery came about as part of the lab’s wider quest to unlock the secrets of the eye’s natural defenses — with a particular interest in using those secrets to combat infections related to contact lens wear. The eye, it turns out, is remarkably resistant to infection. “We can walk around all day long and are exposed to bacteria but we don’t get infected,” says Dr. Fleiszig. “We want to identify the factors that maintain eye health.” Doing so, could lead to solving contact lens infections, and — as in the case of these novel antimicrobial peptides — could help ward off infections in other parts of the body as well.
Inventors listed on the patent
Dr. David J. Evans, Berkeley Optometry
Dr. Kwai Ping Connie Tam, Berkeley Optometry
Dr. James J. Mun, Berkeley Optometry
Patent Application: 2011
Patent Awarded: 2017
Cytokeratins mediate epithelial innate defense through their antimicrobial properties
Membrane-Active Epithelial Keratin 6A Fragments (KAMPs) Are Unique Human Antimicrobial Peptides with a Non-αβ Structure
Defending the cornea with antibacterial fragments of keratin
Fleiszig et al: The United States Patent