Portal for Treating Lyme Arthritis?

Karie Behm, PhD, ORISE Fellow at the CDC

Arizona State University (ASU) News reports on October 5, 2022 an incredible discovery in the cell membrane of Borrelia burgdorferi that could lead to better therapies for Lyme disease. Karie Behm** (former ASU researcher with Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery (CASD), now an ORISE fellow with the CDC) teamed up with her ASU advisors and mentors, Debra Hansen (Assoc Research Professor), and Petra Fromme (Director of the Center) to isolate the membrane protein (BBA57) that has shown to bind to copies of itself at the membrane surface forming a complex. Electron microscopy imaging revealed what appears to be a “portal” or “pore” in this protein leading from the cell’s exterior to the interior. This research has been a passion of Behm’s as she battled Lyme disease as a young person which took 6 debilitating years for physicians to diagnose.

BBA57 is one of hundreds of proteins found on the surface membrane of B. burgdorferi, and is a relatively large protein. This protein was investigated through a new and effective method for visualizing 3D protein shapes, called Cryo-EM. The images captured through this process allows for increased comprehension of how proteins work, how they are used by pathogens that can trigger disease processes, and how drugs may be targeted against them. It is the first time cryo-EM has been used in the study of Lyme disease.

Though the presence of BBA57 is known to be linked to Lyme arthritis through a previous research finding of Dr. Uptal Pal, the discovery of this access to the interior of the B. burgdorferi cell may lead to more effective treatment against Lyme disease by targeting a drug that can seal this portal. Dr. Uptal Pal is now a collaborator with the ASU researcher team who are pursuing long-term funding through a grant proposal to NIH for $3 million. If all goes well with preliminary data, research could begin as early as 2023.

Patricia Smith, LDA President and Karie Behm (Robertson) at poster session: 2018 LDA/Columbia Conference, Providence, RI

LDA Note: Karie Behm (Formerly Robertson) was the only graduate poster presenter at the 2018 LDA conference in RI **

For More Information

Read Dr. Behm’s Full 2022 Article

Link to 2018 Poster

Link to 2018 Abstract

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