Kearney lab NEWS

Mikaeel Young joins us as Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Mikaeel Young, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Rochester Medical Center, accepted the position on June 15, 2022. Dr. Young brings expertise in antimicrobial peptides, cellular structure, confocal microscopy, nanoparticles, and recombinant protein production to the Kearney Lab.


3-year postdoctoral position awarded to Kearney Lab

Baylor University granted a 3-year postdoctoral position to the Kearney Lab to accelerate current research on the selective elimination of pathogens from complex microbiomes. 


Toslim Mahmud joins us as Postdoctoral Associate

Toslim Mahmud, after completing his doctoral degree at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, joined the Kearney Lab on February 15, 2022. His postdoc is funded by the recently awarded CPRIT grant. Dr. Mahmud’s research at Monash focused on the VacA virulence factor of Helicobacter pylori. He will continue his work on virulence factors of H. pylori in the Kearney Lab, focusing on evolution and guide peptides. 

CPRIT grant awarded to Kearney Lab

The Kearney Lab was awarded a $248,938 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas on August 28, 2021. The grant is entitled “Virulence Modulation of Helicobacter pylori, the Strongest Risk Factor for Gastric Cancer”. This project advances our groundbreaking approach to the management of bacterial pathogens by directed evolution. Specifically, we have focused on Helicobacter pylori, the main causal agent of gastric cancer, which claims 700,000 lives annually. Our lab has developed an innovative engineered probiotic therapy/prophylactic that is shown highly effective at stopping H. pylori infection in mice. Funded by this CPRIT cancer grant, we now seek to demonstrate that any resistant mutants developing from long-term exposure to this treatment will have evolved to become avirulent. The peptide expressed by the probiotic is an antimicrobial peptide guided by a sequence derived from the receptor which is bound by H. pylori. Any resistant H. pylori are expected to no longer bind the guide sequence and therefore will no longer bind the host receptor.


The implications for gastric cancer treatment would be long term treatments that would modulate the genetics of H. pylori. Once the initial knockdown of H. pylori is effected, the avirulent state of any surviving H. pylori could be maintained with additional doses of probiotics, perhaps taken monthly.


In this CPRIT funded research, H. pylori will be passaged in the presence of the guided antimicrobial peptide until resistant populations evolve. These populations will be sequenced to look for mutations in the H. pylori virulence factor (VacA) that binds the host receptor, as well as to look for gene expression changes in all genes of H. pylori. The mutated VacA sequences will be used to replace wild type VacA in wild type H. pylori to test for the loss of the virulence phenotype (vacuolation of human cells).