The secret life of gut bacteria

21 September 2016

in 2016, Vic

Jaclyn Pearson presenting at Fresh Science. Credit: Tom Rayner

Jaclyn Pearson presenting at Fresh Science. Credit: Tom Rayner

Melbourne researchers have shown how some gut bacteria use a needle-like system, like a syringe, to poke into the cells in our guts and pump in proteins that silence our immune system, leaving it unable to fight these bugs off.

Jaclyn Pearson from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne thinks this improved understanding of how gut bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli, make us sick could lead to smarter and more effective treatments, and save lives.

Our immune system is complicated. Bacterial infections of the gut kill five to six million kids globally every year. But we still don’t really understand how those bacteria work.

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Swinburne University researchers have discovered that well-fed bacteria won’t damage ships hulls.

Awais visualising a corrosive steel surface due to bacteria using a 3D optical profilometer-credit DMTC Australia

Awais visualising a corrosive steel surface caused by bacteria using a 3D optical profilometer-credit DMTC Australia

By giving bacteria tasty food, in the form of different chemicals, Muhammad Awais Javed is distracting bacteria from eating metal and other surfaces.

Bacteria are well known for the risk they pose to human health. But they also pose a risk to inanimate materials, costing the maritime and oil and gas sectors billions of dollars each year in damages.

Bacteria can gain energy from iron and other chemical elements at the surfaces of metals, ceramics, and plastics. In the process of attacking these surfaces for food, they cause corrosion and damage. [click to continue…]

Geelong scientists have discovered they can use microwave chemistry to make carbon fibre composite materials stronger and safer more quickly.

Carbon fibre composite materials are both light and strong, making them a great alternative to metal in a huge range of applications, from bikes and sports equipment to prosthetic limbs, planes and cars. They’re made up of carbon fibres that are set inside solid plastic.

Kathleen Beggs

Kathleen Beggs

But the materials have an Achilles heel: sometimes the fibres and plastic don’t stick well together and can come apart, making the material weak or causing it to crack.

By heating the carbon fibres in the microwave, Kathleen Beggs from the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University, is able to attach chemical compounds to the carbon fibre that enable them to stick to the plastic better. This makes the composite material much stronger, therefore increasing the safety of the product.

This technique can be performed using conventional heating, like an oven, but microwaving is much more efficient – the reaction can take up to 24 hours using conventional heating, but just 30 minutes under microwave heating.

This is because microwave heating works from the inside out (conventional heating does the opposite, working from the outside in), which provides more evenly distributed heat, speeding up the reaction.

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