Enzymes that break down other proteins, or proteases, could be used as a powerful therapeutic if they could specifically chew-up disease causing entities. However many proteases are non-specific, breaking any protein in their path, while the specific ones target proteins that would provide no therapeutic benefit. Travis and his colleagues developed a riff on the method known as PANCE that utilizes bacteria and bacterial viruses known as phages to evolve proteins toward a specific goal. With it, he retrains the sequence-specific protease, botulinum neurotoxin, toward new targets and away from its original ones. The novel enzymes Travis generates have the potential to not only stimulate nerve regeneration but also deliver itself to the correct cell types for a whole new type of therapy.
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