University of Warwick Develops New Method for Screening Polymeric Antimicrobials

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Researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School developed a way to synthesize polymers to accelerate antimicrobial activity screening.

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a method to synthesize large libraries of polymers to make their screening for antimicrobial activity faster and without the need to use sealed vials, the University announced in an Aug. 14, 2018 press release. The researchers are investigating innovative antimicrobials to address antimicrobial resistance. 

The polymers were synthesized using a high-throughput technique with liquid-handling robots and photochemical polymerization. “Whilst many people have successfully mimicked antimicrobial peptides with polymers, the limiting step was the number of different combinations of building blocks you can use. We used simple robotics and a light controlled polymerization, which lets us do the chemistry open to air, without any sealed vials, which are essential for most polymer syntheses,” Professor Matthew Gibson from Warwick’s Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School and lead author of a paper published in Chemistry; A European Journal, said in the press release.

“We prepared the polymers in such a way that at the end of the reaction, we use the robotics to mix polymers directly with bacteria, so we could look for unexpected activity, which we achieved,” explained Sarah-Jane Richards, from the Gibson Group at the University of Warwick and the lead author of the work, in the press release. While traditional antimicrobials, such as penicillin, work by inhibiting key cellular processes, the Warwick team is investigating host-defense peptides, which are broad spectrum antimicrobials that function by breaking apart the membrane of bacteria. “Surprisingly, the best materials do not seem to break apart the bacteria as we predicted, but rather inhibit their growth. We are investigating this further," added Richards. 


Source: University of Warwick