In this image, the nerve agent sarin is bound to a bioscavenger enzyme. Credit: Jeremy Smith
Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are a step closer to creating a prophylactic drug that would neutralize the deadly effects of the chemical weapons used in Syria and elsewhere.
Jeremy Smith, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and an expert in computational biology, is part of the team that is trying to engineer enzymes—called bioscavengers—so they work more efficiently against chemical weapons. The work is a joint effort between scientists at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a French national laboratory in Grenoble. Their study was published recently in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
Nerve agents, such as sarin, are among the most highly toxic chemical weapons. The study focuses on engineering enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of nerve agents as a prophylactic approach to diminishing their toxic effects.
“Enzymes exist that can…
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