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This project aims to address the current protocol regarding the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in medical industries around the world. Although there are various methods used to qualitatively determine if TBI has occurred to a patient, this study attempts to aid in the creation of a system for quantitative measurement of TBI and its relative magnitude. Through a method of artificial evolution/selection called phage display, an antibody that binds highly specifically to a post-TBI upregulated brain chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan called neurocan has been identified. As TG1 Escheria Coli bacteria were infected with KM13 helper phage and M13 filamentous phage in conjunction, monovalent display of antibody fragments (ScFv) was performed. The ScFv bind directly to the neurocan and from screening, phage that produced ScFv's with higher affinity and specificity to neurocan were separated and purified. Future research aims to improve the ScFv characteristics through increased screening toward neurocan. The identification of a highly specific antibody could lead to improved targeting of neurocan post-TBI in-vivo, aiding researchers in quantitatively defining TBI by visualizing its magnitude.
The diagnosis of bacterial infections based on phage multiplication has the potential for profound clinical implications, particularly for antibiotic-resistant strains and the slow-growing Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The possibility of hastening the diagnosis of antibiotic-resistant mycobacterial infections was accomplished via the study of Mycobacterium smegmatis, a generally non-pathogenic, comparatively fast growing microorganism to M. tuberculosis. These proof-of-concept studies established that after transduction of M. smegmatis cells with bacteriophages, MALDI-TOF MS could be used to detect increased amounts of phage proteins. Recording the growth of M. smegmatis over an 8-hour period, starting with very low OD600 measurements, simulated bacterial loads in clinical settings. For the purposes of MALDI-TOF MS, the procedure for the most effective lethal exposure for M. smegmatis was determined to be a 1-hour incubation in a 95°C water bath. Successful precipitation of the lytic mycobacteriophages D29 and Giles was performed using chloroform and methanol and overlaid with 1-2 μL of α-cyano-4-hydoxycinnaminic acid, which allowed for more distinct and repeatable MALDI-TOF MS spectra. Phage D29 was found to produce an m/z peak at 18.477 kDa, which may have indicated a 2+-charged ion of the 34.8 kDa minor tail protein. The Giles proteins that were identified with MALDI-TOF MS have not been directly compared to protein values reported in the scientific literature. However, the MALDI-TOF MS spectra suggested that distinct peaks existed between M. smegmatis mc2155 and mycobacteriophages, indicating that successful infection with lytic phage and replication thereafter may have occurred. The distinct peaks between M. smegmatis and the phage can be used as indicators of the presence of mycobacteria. At this point, the limits of detection of each phage must be elucidated in order for MALDI-TOF MS spectra to be successfully implemented as a mechanism to rapidly detect antibiotic-resistant mycobacteria.
Protein and gene circuit level synthetic bioengineering can require years to develop a single target. Phage assisted continuous evolution (PACE) is a powerful new tool for rapidly engineering new genes and proteins, but the method requires an automated cell culture system, making it inaccessible to non industrial research programs. Complex protein functions, like specific binding, require similarly dynamic PACE selection that can be alternatively induced or suppressed, with heat labile chemicals like tetracycline. Selection conditions must be controlled continuously over days, with adjustments made every few minutes. To make PACE experiments accessible to the broader community, we designed dedicated cell culture hardware and integrated optogenetically controlled plasmids. The low cost and open source platform allows a user to conduct PACE with continuous monitoring and precise control of evolution using light.