In February 2023, a study was published announcing that bacteria possess something similar to humans that can activate and deactivate immune pathways, and therefore this “something” could be used to cure diseases; that “something” is called the ubiquitin transferase enzyme.
Biological warfare, the use of infectious agents to kill diseases caused by other infectious agents, has been considered as a potential solution in the past. In fact, years prior, a family of DNA sequences now referred to as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) were discovered in bacteria, and it was determined that these sequences were capable of killing other phages and being used to cure infections.
Our immune pathways, as we learned in our immunity unit in AP Biology, is crucial for our survival as a species. Our immune system consists of innate immunity, involving natural killer cells that serve as our first line of defense against pathogens, and adaptive immunity, involving B cells and T cells that need to be trained to fight these pathogens. Our immune pathways alone, however, cannot rid us of neurodegenerative diseases, and these diseases still unfortunately have no cure..
One may be wondering now, how can the ubiquitin transferase enzyme work to treat diseases like Parkinson’s? How does it help our immune pathways? Well, the answer to that is protein editing. The enzyme contains two proteins, CD-NTase-associated protein 2 and 3 (also known as Cap2 and Cap3); these proteins are what serve as the activation and deactivation for immune pathways: they can direct old, unnecessary, or damaged proteins to be broken down.
When the potential of CRISPR was discovered, scientists used genome editing to direct the machine so it would kill its targeted diseases. A similar attempt could be made with the ubiquitin transferase enzyme.
Finding the existence of this in bacteria especially is an amazing discovery, as not only does it propel us in the right direction in terms of potentially curing Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative disorders, but it connects back to our other lesson in AP Biology that humans and bacteria are not so different after all. We share about a thousand genes!
It is particularly interesting knowing how biological warfare could be used to help us.
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