The biggest concern with anti-bacterial soaps and the like is essentially the fast-forward nature of Darwinism in single-cell organisms. You kill all the bacteria that are susceptible to Anti-Bac A and the ones that are left get a wide-open ecosystem with none of their weaker brethren to hinder their reproduction. Before long, none of the bacteria that used to be weakened by Anti-Bac A are around, leaving you to find Anti-Bac B in a hurry. Because the new bacteria are wiping people out.

But researchers at the University of Rochester are aiming at another, more effective way to deal with bacteria. One that doesn’t allow them to evolve around the latest defense, because it goes to the core of how cells – any cells, really – operate. The new theory is that we may someday be able to interrupt the processing of two key proteins used in ribosomes. Ribosomes are the protein-creating organelle in the cell. Without properly-functioning ribosomes, no cell can live. Interrupt these two key proteins and you kill the cell:

They discovered that two proteins already present in E. coli cells—RbfA and KsgA—need to be in balance with each other in order for ribosomes to function. If those proteins are present in the wrong concentrations, the ribosomes will not mature properly and will be unable to produce proteins, leading to the death of the cells. Their findings are being published this week in the journal Molecular Microbiology.

Researching, cataloging and analyzing proteins is one of the major biological research competencies of the Rochester area. Another research project at RIT discovered the protein required to allow photosynthesis in algae. Once again, finding a path to disrupt the use of this particular protein would create an organism-specific means to control an undesirable population.

In this case, researchers are again focusing on a specific species – E. Coli – but identifying similar proteins in other species would work as well.