For his work, Adel Jabbour will be presented with a Kaye Innovation Award on June 6 during the 68th meeting of the Hebrew University Board of Governors. Jabbour, a Ph.D. student, conducted his work under the supervision of Prof. Morris Srebnik of the School of Pharmacy and Prof. Doron Steinberg of the Faculty of Dental Medicine. Also working on the project is graduate student Moshe Bronstein
Most human and animal diseases are associated with bacteria that are assembled in "communities," called biofilms, that attach themselves to many surfaces, such as live tissues, implants and teeth. Biofilm can also be found on artificial surfaces such as water pipes or air-conditioning ducts.
Only recently has it been discovered that the bacteria assembled in biofilms have a network of communication between them called "quorum sensing," which controls their collective activity (or lack thereof). These sensing signals control the physiology and pathogenicity of the bacteria in the biofilms. A boron-based molecule that is produced by these bacteria, called auto inducer-2, controls the signals in this quorum sensing process.
Jabbour has succeeded in synthesizing modified chemical compounds, resembling the structure of the natural auto inducer-2, that can disrupt the signaling. By altering the molecular structure in these compounds, Jabbour was able to show that it is possible to control the quorum sensing responses in order to "deceive" the bacteria. The modified compounds distort the signaling that sets off the bacterial changes, making it possible to seriously hamper the bacterial action, or, if so desired, even enhance it (in those cases where the bacteria are beneficial).