Cesar de la Fuente and his lab at the University of Pennsylvania are utilizing algorithms in a unique pursuit to discover potential new antibiotics from long-extinct animals like Neanderthals and woolly mammoths. Using “molecular de-extinction,” they dig through genetic databases for fragments of ancient animal DNA to find peptides with potential properties to combat bacteria. Lab robots help return the most promising DNA fragments to life, testing their effectiveness in fighting infections in mice. While the approach is unorthodox, it attempts to address the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, which killed an estimated 1.2 million people in 2019. De la Fuente’s team plans to further incorporate modern mammal DNA into their research despite some skepticism from the scientific community. The group sees this as an opportunity to leverage growing genetic libraries to uncover new drugs for various infections and diseases.
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[Source: STAT, October 25th, 2023]