OAK RIDGE (WATE) - Is there a way to protect people from
deadly chemical agents like those recently used in Syria?
Local researchers are working on finding
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Lab and
the University of Tennessee are taking a close look at a special enzyme through
the use of neutrons combined with high performance computing.
What they're working toward has the potential
to save millions of lives by offering potential victims temporary
immunity to nerve agents like Sarin gas.
6 News was granted access to an ORNL lab
where researchers like Paul Langan are looking for a way to render chemical
agents useless in an attack.
As Langan explained, "Here we're growing
bacteria that are producing enzymes that will be used for things like
decontaminating nerve agents used as chemical weapons."
Among the test tubes and technology, there is
a simple enzyme made in nature by squid that scientists at ORNL say can render
The enzyme itself is not a new discovery.
While it packs a powerful reaction to dangerous gases, it doesn't do so very
Local researchers are now busy trying to find
ways to redesign the enzyme to make it quicker.
part of an effort that involves several labs nationally and internationally to
try and engineer, change these enzymes so they work more efficiently," said UT Researcher Jeremy Smith.
Once researchers hone in on how to make the
enzyme chew up the nerve agents as fast as possible, the next step will be for
another research team to figure out how to administer the substance to
humans. Options include using it in an aerosol spray, a patch, or possibly a pill.
The research team says it needs more funding
to get a timely answer in its investigation.