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Posts Tagged ‘microbes’

Grammar saves lives

Posted by Richard on October 19, 2006

If you’re like many people, you’ve wondered why your English teachers made you learn all those grammar rules — you’ve forgotten most of them, and yet you get along just fine.

Of course, if you’re significantly younger than me, your English teachers probably never made you learn them in the first place, believing that any emphasis on tedious subjects like grammar, punctuation, and spelling would merely stifle your creativity and potentially damage your self-esteem.

Well, it turns out that knowing the basics of grammar can help you conquer drug-resistant microbes and save lives:

Studying a potent type of bacteria-fighters found in nature, called antimicrobial peptides, biologists found that they seemed to follow rules of order and placement that are similar to simple grammar laws. Using those new grammar-like rules for how these antimicrobial peptides work, scientists created 40 new artificial bacteria-fighters.

Nearly half of those new germ-fighters vanquished a variety of bacteria and two of them beat anthrax, according to a paper in Thursday’s journal Nature.

This potentially creates not just a new type of weapon against hard-to-fight germs, but a way to keep churning out new and different microbe-attackers so that when bacteria evolve new defenses against one drug, doctors won’t be stymied.

Using grammar as their guide, scientists could easily produce tens of thousands of new bacteria-fighters and test them for use as future drugs, said study lead author Gregory Stephanopoulos, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Now aren’t you glad that at least Dr. Stephanopoulos and his pals were paying attention in English class?
 

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