Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Bacterial Grammar

PostedNovember 19, 2006

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Randy Atkins:  Our body’s defense arsensal includes bacteria-puncturing chemicals called peptides.  Their blueprints are written in a language…

Gregory Stephanopoulos:  …very similar to the way we construct a sentence.

Randy Atkins:  Greg Stephanopoulos, an MIT chemical engineer, says bacteria sometimes figure out a way to get around even the best grammar, so he’s trying to master peptide prose.

Gregory Stephanopoulos:  If we know the rules, can we now synthesize peptides which have never been seen in nature before?

Randy Atkins:  Staying within peptide "grammar" rules, he changed "words" here and there.  About half the new peptides were effective against dangerous bacteria.

Gregory Stephanopoulos:  We synthesize them on the computer, so we can make these peptides by the ton.

Randy Atkins:  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.