Researchers Engineer Enforcer Cells That Will Take out Lethal Bacteria

Bacteria and antibiotics have been in an arms race since the drugs were invented. But for economic reasons, fewer and fewer of these drugs are being developed today, while the fear of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is ever-growing. This, and the potential threat of a bioterror attack, where say an epidemic-causing bacteria is released into the general population, makes the need for countermeasures obvious. Johns Hopkins researchers have come up with a new way to eliminate dangerous bacteria, using beefed up cells who seek out and destroy dangerous pathogens, all on their own.

Researchers from the John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and the School of Medicine teamed up on this four-year project. They received a grant of $5.7 million, awarded by the federal agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The point of the study is to create a biocontrol system that can send out single-cell enforcers to find and eliminate certain pathogens. Researchers will program amoeba cells to do so, each one micron long, about one-tenth the width of a human hair.

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