Novel Enzyme Therapeutics for Bacterial Biofilm Treatment

John Lamppa, Ph.D. Candidate and Research-In-Progress Winner, Thayer School of Engineering

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spanos Auditorium

Note that John Lamppa's talk starts at 29:18.

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series, and is the second half of a two-part seminar by research-in-progress winners. See part one.

Microbial biofilms constitute large communities of bacteria growing within a complex matrix of various biological polymers. The biofilm matrix serves, among other roles, to protect the resident bacteria from harsh conditions within a particular environment. Bacterial biofilms have a detrimental impact on a broad spectrum of human activities, including contributing to corrosion of oil pipelines, fouling of ship hulls, formation of dental plaque, contamination of medical implants, and sustaining a variety of infections in the human body. Here at Thayer we are particularly interested in biofilms associated with pulmonary infections of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) colonizes the lungs of CF patients during childhood, and there it typically converts to a "mucoid" form characterized by production of biofilms containing alginate, a highly charged extracellular carbohydrate. Alginate biofilms contribute to high-level antibiotic resistance, and have also been shown to effectively protect the bacteria from the human immune system. The persistent nature of CF associated P. aeruginosa infections causes chronic airway inflammation, extensive tissue damage, and progressive loss of lung function. To more effectively treat these recalcitrant infections, we are developing novel biofilm degrading proteins as prospective antibacterial therapies. Using genetic engineering combined with chemical modification, we have developed enzymes that exhibit enhanced performance by various therapeutically relevant metrics. These types of biotherapeutics could eventually represent a new tool in physicians' ongoing battle with drug-resistant bacterial biofilms.

About the Speaker

John Lamppa is a Ph.D. candidate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Starting in the fall of 2007, John has been working in the field of protein engineering with an emphasis towards novel enzyme therapies for cystic fibrosis and bacterial biofilm degradation. John received a B.A. and distinction in Chemistry from St. Olaf College in 2007.