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Cystic Fibrosis Trust

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Potential breakthrough in the battle against bacteria for people with cystic fibrosis.

Researchers are one step closer to a victory in the fight against a life-threatening bacteria in people with cystic fibrosis (CF) thanks to the work of Dr Michael Gray's Strategic Research Centre,  INOVCF, funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

The team has found a way of altering the structure of a key protein that kills bacteria in the human lung.

At the University of North Carolina, (UNC) at Chapel Hill, USA, one team in the consortium found that the protein, SPLUNC1, is prevented from working in acid environments, such as within the lungs of a person with cystic fibrosis. They then changed the protein structure to make it ‘acid independent’, and found it was able to help the body fight against bacteria in the lungs more effectively.

Dr Gray, who is coordinating the international team from Newcastle University, said: “This is a very exciting step, as modified SPLUNC1 proteins could potentially be inhaled to help the CF lung remove harmful bacteria.”

Dr Rob Tarran, who heads the UNC team, commented that “there is an urgent need for new and better antibiotics to treat CF infections. Enhancing the activity of SPLUNC1 presents a new way of treating CF infections that has the potential to translate into a real therapy.”

Dr Anoushka de Almeida, Head of Research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, commented: “This is exciting news. We’d like to thank Dr Gray and his team for all their hard work, and above all our amazing supporters, whose fundraising and donations make all of this possible. Your remarkable efforts continuously help move these pioneering medical projects forward, bringing us closer to a life unlimited for everyone with cystic fibrosis.”

Dr Gray and his team, one of nine Strategic Research Centres funded by the Trust, are eighteen months in to a four-year project exploring the basic science behind cystic fibrosis.