In the News
The work of molecular dynamics guru Dr Mike Kuiper (VLSCI) made headlines recently as research unveiled the clever tactics used by fungi and bacteria to kill cells. Colloquially known as ‘nanoscopic cookie cutters’ or ‘donuts of death’, these pore-punching toxins allow the organisms to fend off parasites or kill host cells to promote infection.
In a recent article in New Scientist, Monash University scientist Dr Michelle Dunstone describes how a species of carnivorous mushroom use a toxin called pleurotolysin to kill parasites by destabilising cell membranes. It is also speculated that the same toxin may likely be used to kill potential prey. Using experimental data, Dr Kuiper generated a highly sophisticated visualisation of the structural changes of the proteins during the pore-forming process. You can find the full article and movie here.
Dr Kuiper has also been instrumental in the molecular modeling of bacterial toxins that could one day lead to a cure for cancer, as this recent article in The Age describes. Recognising specific sugars on the surface of cancer cells, but not healthy cells, these toxins could one day be engineered to specifically punch holes in tumor cells as a form of cancer therapy. Very exciting stuff indeed.