Linking innovative technology with historical knowledge of tropical flora to create paradigm-shifting medicines, personal products, and more.
An enzyme responsible for a new class of super bacteria with a genetically modified defense - NDM-1 - which makes the bacteria carrying it immune to most or all known anti-biotics has infection experts alarmed. The multi-drug resistance facilitated by the gene New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase or NDM-1 can easily jump from one strain of bacteria to another, possibly creating a pandemic of resistant infections.
The bacteria with the modified genetics have been found world-wide.
Plant matter accounts for over 19,000 chemicals in use today, and the number is accelerating. In the field of biochemicals, enormous sums are being spent on plant research for the creation of products ranging from industrial solvents, to plastics, printing ink and adhesives. The cosmetic industry, taking advantage of a general trend toward a more natural lifestyle, have turned to the plant world for skin softeners, toners and bleaches. Food companies are using plant molecules for adding flavor and texture to processed foods. Dyes for clothing and decoration are increasingly plant based.
Belize has one of the world's richest habitats for flora. No fewer than 4,000 known species of native flowering plants are found within its borders, along with about 700 species of trees and several hundred species of other plants. And new species are still being discovered. Scientists are only now beginning to carry out an exhaustive inventory of Belize's plants. The task is daunting: over 70 percent of the country is under some kind of forest cover, and almost half of Belize's primary forest is still standing.
It is this rich pool of diversity that drew the QuorumEx founders to locate their facilities and direct their efforts in Belize. This decision has proven fortuitous. In a brief span of two years we have identified and isolated plant compounds that promise to change the fundamental way that we look at disease, and we have developed products ranging from anti-bacterials to personal lubricants based on purely natural substances.
What is Quorum Sensing?
In the early 1970s it was discovered that bacteria possess the ability to communicate with one another. As more research was done it was discovered that chemical signaling molecules, called auto-inducers, produced by each individual bacterium, allow colonies of bacteria to regulate collective behavior. In effect, it allows a colony to function as a single organism. This process of communication is called quorum sensing.
The coordinated group behaviors regulated by quorum sensing are many and diverse. Movement, growth rates and the production of protective chemicals are three such examples. The regulation of virulence - the bacterial actions that cause disease, is another example. This is the function of quorum sensing that is of interest to us, and it is our main area of research.
Much has been learned in the past decade about the complex behavior of bacteria under the influence of various Quorum Sensing systems. Many bacteria possess multiple QS systems, which control different aspects of virulence or other behaviors at different times in the infection process. And each bacteria species responds differently to QS stimuli, depending on environmental pressures, the presence or absence of competing bacterial species, the immune response of the host and other conditions.
Research at QuorumEx focuses primarily of the identification of plant based substances that inhibit bacteria’s ability to communicate with one another. This communication, called quorum sensing, uses qs signaling molecules. The detection of these molecules is critical to the bacteria’s ability to initiate their disease causing activities. To date, we have isolated numerous plant compounds that have this capacity of inhibition.
It is to be expected that plants would have evolved sophisticated mechanisms for minimizing damage caused by bacterial pathogens because plants, no less than humans or other animals, are susceptible to bacterial infection. In fact, they have had far longer to develop defense mechanisms than animals, since they pre-date animals by many hundreds of millions of years.
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