May 16, 2012

University of Minnesota startup to treat challenging bacterial infection 

Current treatments often compound problem, potentially making infection lethal

A live biological preparation developed by University of Minnesota researchers could put a stop to an increasingly prevalent, and sometimes deadly, infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile. CIPAC Limited, based in Australia with subsidiaries in California, will continue to work with
the University to advance the technology to treat patients by using frozen and, eventually, encapsulated preparations. 

January 29, 2013

Jurassic Park molecules?

Deanne Morrison

Enzymes evolved in the lab hold
commercial and scientific promise

Whether big, small, slimy, or tall, most
animal bodies are symmetric.

Except for sea anemones, starfish, sponges, and the like, animals have bilateral, or
right-left, symmetry. Us included.

The bilateral body plan became the norm over eons of evolution. But what about
molecules? Have any evolved common
structures like a body plan? 

April 30, 2013

Purifying bad water with
good bacteria

Vincent Hyman

Most of the food you eat is made possible
by oil and gas. It’s not just that these fuels power the harvesting, transport and electric components used in agriculture. Oil and
gas make fertilizers that nurture crops, too.

“We use five trillion cubic feet of gas in the process that makes fertilizers world-wide,” explains Larry Wackett, PhD, of the
University of Minnesota’s Department
of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and
Biophysics. “Without it, we could only
feed three billion of the world’s seven
billion people. We need to keep using
hydrocarbons to meet that demand.”

But gas and oil create numerous environmental and health problems, from global warming to air pollution and water contamination. A recent collaboration among University biotechnologists is breaking new ground in treating the water portion of this challenge.

May 2, 2013

Under the microscope: examining
the promise of bioremediation

Bioremediation—the use of microorganisms to remove pollutants from the environment—is a growing and powerful field of scientific research. It presents new opportunities for researchers to partner with industry to develop sustainable solutions for increasingly complex and costly environmental and health related challenges.

At the University of Minnesota, faculty from the biological sciences, engineering, public health and medicine (to name just a few) are currently collaborating on several promising interdisciplinary projects involving the use of bioremediation to address a range of critical environmental and public health issues facing our world and our state.

May 6, 2013

Electrifying potential

Deanne Morrison

Electricity from bacteria opens
a world of possibilities

Alchemists never managed to change base metals into gold, but all around us microbes achieve the next best thing.

Using primitive electricity, some bacteria
can change the electrical state of metals—
notably iron, but also uranium, manganese, and arsenic.

May 31, 2013

Heated sludge helps
defeat superbugs

Vincent Hyman

You’ve probably heard of “superbugs”—bacteria that are resistant to numerous antibiotics.

They’ve cost many lives and billions of
dollars. And part of the solution could be
as simple as treating our waste to a nice
hot bath.

Timothy LaPara, PhD of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Civil Engineering and a member of the BioTechnology Institute, has interests in wastewater microbiology and antibiotic resistance. He’s combined these to address a pandemic that threatens to return the world to a pre-penicillin era.

July 9, 2013

Ancient remedy a promising
cure for Clostridium difficile

A team of researchers at the U of M have revived an ancient medical treatment to address a severe gastrointestinal illness and have developed ways to standardize the procedure.

The process, dubbed “fecal microbiota transplantation” transfers healthy bacteria from one person’s intestine to another person where the healthy bacteria have been depleted. It’s very effective for people suffering from Clostridium difficile, also called  C. diff, an opportunistic pathogen that takes over when antibiotics wipe out “essential and symbiotic” bacteria in the gut.

July 29, 2013

“Breathing” bacteria
clean up toxic waste

For decades, we’ve released toxic chlorine- containing chemicals into the environment, leaving a legacy of superfund sites and fouled groundwater and sediments. These chlorinated compounds are implicated in a number of health problems, including cancer, endocrine disruption, kidney damage, liver damage and possibly heart disease, obesity, diabetes and developmental illnesses.

The toxins hang around in the environment for generations. The good news is that there are naturally occurring bacteria that breathe these chemicals and in the process convert them to safer compounds—if we can get
the bacteria and toxins to meet under the right conditions.

Summer 2013

Gut Reaction

Greg Breining

By the time the 61-year-old woman had been referred to Alexander Khoruts (BS ’85, MD ’89) in 2008, she was crippled by cramps and nearly constant diarrhea. After eight months in and out of hospitals and repeated treatments with antibiotics, she had lost 60 pounds. Weak and wheelchair-bound, she had to wear diapers 24 hours a day.

Dr. Alexander Khoruts says that one of the biggest challenges to the acceptance of fecal transplants is overcoming the “yuck factor.”

It was then that Khoruts reached back into medical history, resorting to a
treatment first written about nearly
1,700 years ago. Within two days, the woman’s bowel movements were returning to normal and her cramps vanished.
A month later, her intestine showed no sign of Clostridium difficile.