LDS scientists help discover disease-killing 'silver bullet'

A trio of Louisiana State University scientists, two of them Latter-day Saints, have discovered variations of three protein compounds that can kill some of the world's most formidable disease-causing agents.

In repeated tests by LDS scientists Jesse Jaynes and Kenneth White and colleague Fred Enright, these compounds, called "peptides" or small proteins, have destroyed certain types of cancer, along with organisms that can cause herpes, influenza, malaria, viral infections, fungi and brucellosis."We're hoping this will develop into something that will really help people," said Professor White, bishop of the Baton Rouge (La.) 2nd Ward and an animal science professor at LSU. "This has the potential of being a tremendous help in a lot of different ways."

However, it may take several years before these peptides go from the researchers' test tubes to a commercial form at the local drugstore. The research is just beginning. Tests on animals and humans - which are required for federal approval - have yet to be scheduled.

And then there is the cost. It takes $100,000 to produce only an ounce of these proteins. Jaynes is now looking into more economical ways of producing them. Meanwhile, Bishop White is examining ways to stiumulate immune cells and produce more disease-resistant animals. Enright, whose specialty is veterinary science, is involved in developing the peptides as antibiotics for animals.

"I think we will be able to overcome the challenges," Bishop White said. "There's a possibility of it being used in humans in five to 10 years. It may happen quicker if sufficient funding is available."

This pioneering research was started by Jaynes, second counselor in the Sunday School presidency of the Baton Rouge 2nd Ward. About three years ago, he began looking for ways to make food-producing plants more resistant to bacteria.

In studying the infection-fighting system of the giant silk moth, Jaynes discovered a peptide that could do much more. He and his colleagues then duplicated as closely as possible the natural substance to produce two more peptides that are modifications of the protein from the moth. They soon found that all three compounds destroy bacteria in plants and animals, kill viruses and parasites and may speed up immunity and healing processes. These compounds can kill disease-causing cells without affecting healthy cells.

Jaynes said the healthy cells are much more difficult to penetrate and are only adversely affected with "megadoses" of the material.

"With virtually everything we tested the peptide on, it worked very, very well," Bishop White explained. They nicknamed the first compound the Silver Bullet because it worked so well. The additional compounds became Modified SB (Silver Bullet)-37 and Shiva 1.

"It seems outlandish that one cell could affect so many cells," Jaynes told a Baton Rouge newspaper, The Times-Picayune. "We're finding out, as time goes on that it has a remarkably broad spectrum of activity. . . . We were wondering how people would believe us. We've tried to be very cautious and repeated our work many, many times. We're left with the fact that we have devised a novel chemotherapeutic agent."

The researchers first treated diseased mice with the peptide and found that it reduced the bacteria 90 to 95 percent. Then they started successfully testing it on certain kinds of cancer cells, which led to more discoveries.

"We found it has the ability to promote growth of certain types of cells," Bishop White said. "It also enhances the activity of immune cells."

Though these compounds are not new, he said the perspective from which they were studied in the past was different from the way the LSU researchers looked at them.

Looking at the reasearch from a gospel perspective, Bishop White said the Lord's help has played a part in the research.

"A lot of these things happen, and you realize we're not that smart to come up with these things by ourselves," he said. "There's always a feeling you're not alone."

He and Jaynes crossed paths at the right time for the research to be a success, he said. Jaynes, who received his doctorate from BYU, came to LSU after doing post-doctoral work at the University of California at Davis. Bishop White graduated from BYU and then went to the University of California at Davis to earn his master's degree in animal science before coming to LSU.

They met 2 1/2 years ago at a Church social.

"He was talking about some of these peptides that may kill becteria," Bishop White said, "and I suggested we ought to look at animal pathogens. That's how we got started The whole thing has been very exciting. We're always anxious to get to the next step."

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