News: Bioteknik related to Chalmers University of TechnologyThu, 19 Apr 2018 16:58:25 +0200 the BIO-researchers!<p><b>​Are carbohydrates good for you, can foods cure allergy and how do we make the earth’s resources last?Chalmers researchers visit the Science Festival in Gothenburg to answer your questions about health, nutrition and sustainability.</b></p>​How does a simple blood sample reveal what you are eating and what your body needs? How can yeast be used to produce fuel? How do we reduce food waste?<br /><br />On Thursday, April 19, researchers from the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering at Chalmers enter the Science Festival’s stage in Nordstan to talk about health, nutrition and sustainability. Take the opportunity to straighten out your question marks in the &quot;Expert Bubbles&quot; where the researchers give you the answers. By each researcher you get a clue that solves the word puzzle. Talk, think and win!<br /><br /><a href="/sv/forskning/popularvetenskap/vetenskapsfestivalen/Sidor/vetenskapsfestivalen.aspx">More about the programme here</a> (in Swedish).Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:00:00 +0200 of graphene can kill bacteria on implants<p><b>​A tiny layer of graphene flakes becomes a deadly weapon and kills bacteria, stopping infections during procedures such as implant surgery. This is the findings of new research from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.</b></p><p>​Operations for surgical implants, such as hip and knee replacements or dental implants, have increased in recent years. However, in such procedures, there is always a risk of bacterial infection. In the worst case scenario, this can cause the implant to not attach to the skeleton, meaning it must be removed.<br /><br />Bacteria travel around in fluids, such as blood, looking for a surface to cling on to. Once in place, they start to grow and propagate, forming a protective layer, known as a biofilm.<br /><br />A research team at Chalmers has now shown that a layer of vertical graphene flakes forms a protective surface that makes it impossible for bacteria to attach. Instead, bacteria are sliced apart by the sharp graphene flakes and killed. Coating implants with a layer of graphene flakes can therefore help protect the patient against infection, eliminate the need for antibiotic treatment, and reduce the risk of implant rejection. The osseointegration – the process by which the bone structure grow to attach the implant – is not disturbed. In fact, the graphene has been shown to benefit the bone cells.<br /><br />Chalmers University is a leader in the area of graphene research, but the biological applications did not begin to materialise until a few years ago. The researchers saw conflicting results in earlier studies. Some showed that graphene damaged the bacteria, others that they were not affected.<br /><br />“We discovered that the key parameter is to orient the graphene vertically. If it is horizontal, the bacteria are not harmed” says Ivan Mijakovic, Professor at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.<br /><br />The sharp flakes do not damage human cells. The reason is simple: one bacterium is one micrometer – one thousandth of a millimeter – in diameter, while a human cell is 25 micrometers. So, what constitutes a deadly knife attack for a bacterium, is therefore only a tiny scratch for a human cell.<br /><br />&quot;Graphene has high potential for health applications. But more research is needed before we can claim it is entirely safe. Among other things, we know that graphene does not degrade easily” says Jie Sun, Associate Professor at the Department of Micro Technology and Nanoscience.<br /><br />Good bacteria are also killed by the graphene. But that’s not a problem, as the effect is localised and the balance of microflora in the body remains undisturbed.<br /><br />&quot;We want to prevent bacteria from creating an infection. Otherwise, you may need antibiotics, which could disrupt the balance of normal bacteria and also enhance the risk of antimicrobial resistance by pathogens” says Santosh Pandit, postdoc at Biology and Biological Engineering.<br /><br />Vertical flakes of graphene are not a new invention, having existed for a few years. But the Chalmers research teams are the first to use the vertical graphene in this way. The next step for the research team will be to test the graphene flakes further, by coating implant surfaces and studying the effect on animal cells.<br /><br />Chalmers cooperated with <a href="">Wellspect Healthcare</a>, a company which makes catheters and other medical instruments, in this research. They will now continue with a second study. <br /><br />The projects are a part of the national strategic innovation programme SIO Grafen, supported by the Swedish government agencies Vinnova (Sweden’s innovation agency), the Swedish Energy Agency and the Swedish Research Council Formas. The research results are published in Advanced Materials Interfaces: &quot;<a href="">Vertically Aligned Graphene Coating is Bactericidal and Prevents the Formation of Bacterial Biofilms</a>&quot;<br /><br /><strong>The making of vertical graphene</strong><br />Graphene is made of carbon atoms. It is only a single atomic layer thick, and therefore the world's thinnest material. Graphene is made in flakes or films. It is 200 times stronger than steel and has very good conductivity thanks to its rapid electron mobility. Graphene is also extremely sensitive to molecules, which allows it to be used in sensors.<br /><br />Graphene can be made by CVD, or Chemical Vapor Deposition. The method is used to create a thin surface coating on a sample. The sample is placed in a vacuum chamber and heated to a high temperature at the same time as three gases – usually hydrogen, methane and argon – are released into the chamber. The high heat causes gas molecules to react with each other, and a thin layer of carbon atoms is created.<br />To produce vertical graphene forms, a process known as Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition, or PECVD, is used. Then, an electric field – a plasma – is applied over the sample, which causes the gas to be ionized near the surface. With the plasma, the layer of carbon grows vertically from the surface, instead of horizontally as with CVD.<br /></p> <div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read 21aa3563-502e-4205-bcb8-3e04875a5b8d" id="div_21aa3563-502e-4205-bcb8-3e04875a5b8d" unselectable="on"></div> <div id="vid_21aa3563-502e-4205-bcb8-3e04875a5b8d" unselectable="on" style="display:none"></div></div> <p><br />Text: Mia Malmstedt<br />Photo and video: Johan Bodell<br />Illustration: Yen Strandqvist </p>Mon, 16 Apr 2018 09:00:00 +0200 iron supplements may influence the development of colon cancer<p><b>​Two common iron compounds increase the formation of a known biomarker for cancer, according to a new study of cancer cells from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. The two compounds, ferric citrate and ferric EDTA, are often used in dietary supplements and as a food additive respectively, in worldwide markets including the USA and the EU.</b></p>​The researchers studied ferric citrate and ferric EDTA, which have both previously been shown to worsen tumour formation in mice with colon cancer. The science behind this has been little understood until now, and possible effects on human cells were not previously investigated. <br /><br />The new study, which was in collaboration with the UK Medical Research Council and Cambridge University, looked at the effect of normal supplemental doses of these compounds on two types of cultured human colon cancer cells. As a comparison, they also measured the effects of ferrous sulphate, another very commonly available iron compound.<br /><br />While ferrous sulphate had no effect, both ferric citrate and ferric EDTA caused an increase in cellular levels of amphiregulin, a biomarker for cancer. This was the case even at low doses.<br /><br />&quot;We can conclude that ferric citrate and ferric EDTA might be carcinogenic, as they both increase the formation of amphiregulin, a known cancer marker most often associated with long-term cancer with poor prognosis,&quot; says Nathalie Scheers, Assistant Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, and lead writer on the study.<br /><br />Today there are many different types of iron supplements on the market. These can be based on at least 20 different iron compounds, and sold under a wide range of brands. Ferric sulphate is one of the most common, but ferric citrate, which is said to be gentler for the stomach, is also widely available in stores and online. It is also more easily absorbed by the body through foods such as granary bread, beans and nuts.<br /><br />But for consumers looking to make an informed choice, it can often be difficult to know what exactly they are buying. <br /><br />“Many stores and suppliers don’t actually state what kind of iron compound is present – even in pharmacies. Usually it just says ‘iron’ or ‘iron mineral’, which is problematic for consumers,” says Nathalie Scheers. <br /><br />Iron is also added to some foods, to combat iron deficiency. Ferric EDTA is approved as a fortifying agent in both the USA and the EU. It is also used in countries such as China, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico and The Philippines, where it is added to flour and powdered drinks. Additionally, it is present in certain medicines for children with low iron levels in countries such as the UK and France. <br /><br />With both ferric citrate and ferric EDTA in widespread use, how should consumers or patients relate to these new findings?<br /><br />“First, we must bear in mind that the study was done on human cancer cells cultured in the laboratory, since it would be unethical to do it in humans. But, the possible mechanisms and effects observed still call for caution. They must be further investigated,&quot; says Nathalie Scheers. &quot;At the moment, people should still follow recommended medical advice. As a researcher, I cannot recommend anything – that advice needs to come from the authorities. But speaking personally, if I needed an iron supplement, I would try to avoid ferric citrate,” she continues. <br /><br />Beyond this, she is not willing to comment. Research in the field has so far been limited, even concerning the more common ferrous sulphate. The key thing for her is that we begin to differentiate between different forms of iron. <br /><br />&quot;Most importantly, researchers and authorities need to start to distinguish between this form of iron and that form of iron. We need to consider that different forms can have different biological effects,” she concludes.<br /><br /><strong>Women at greater risk</strong><br />Most of the iron that the body needs is obtained through food such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. But sometimes this is not enough. Pregnant women may need additional iron, as well as people who have lost blood or have low haemoglobin levels for other reasons. In patients with kidney disease, high doses of iron may be needed to bind phosphates into the bloodstream.<br /><br /><strong>More about the study</strong><br />The research was funded by Formas, (The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning) and was in collaboration with a research team at Elsie Widdowson laboratory, Medical Research Council, Cambridge/University of Cambridge. The study was recently published in the journal Oncotarget: <a href=";page=article&amp;op=view&amp;path%5b%5d=24899">‘Ferric citrate and ferric EDTA but not ferrous sulfate drive amphiregulin-mediated activation of the MAP kinase ERK in gut epithelial cancer cells’</a><br /><p><br />Text: Christian Borg<br />Photo/illustration: Yen Strandqvist </p>Thu, 12 Apr 2018 07:00:00 +0200 for better beer<p><b>​Advanced knowledge of biotechnology can not only be used to invent new fuels or medicines. It can also be used to make better beers. During Gothenburg Beer Week in April, Chalmers opened its lab to help professionals and hobby makers analyze their brews.</b></p><p>Joshua Mayers and Fábio Luis Da Silva Faria Oliveira are researchers in industrial biotechnology at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology at Chalmers. For one day during Gothenburg Beer Week, they collaborated with Chalmers as they, with their small company Crafts Lab, rented the university laboratory and invited brewers and beer makers to an event. For two hours, they talked about different brewing techniques, brewing science, yeast types, analyzed the participating brewer's own beer samples and responded to their questions. <br />– We had a nice sized group, around 30 people. The lab was a bit of squeeze so any more and it would have a bit cramped, but hopefully everyone got a chance to see what we were demonstrating or explaining, says Joshua Mayers.<br /><br /><strong>How did you come up with this idea?</strong><br />– Joshua and I have been brewing beer for a long time and we usually help each other and indulge in “beer-geekery”. While brewing there are lots of points where you’re sitting and waiting for things and we’ve had time to contemplate on the possibilities of combining our knowledge in microbiology and biotechnology with our beer interest, says Fábio Luis Da Silva Faria Oliveira.<br />– There are already a large number of good breweries in Sweden and on the west coast, but one thing we did see the potential for, was services that can help support this industry. We’re aware of beer analysis lab models from the renowned White Labs in the states, and they appear to be growing their business in this area, so we thought, why won’t this model work on the west coast of Sweden amongst all the great breweries we have here? he says. <br /><br /><strong>Were you able to answer all their questions?</strong><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/IndBio/beer-josh_250.jpg" alt="" style="height:230px;width:299px;margin:5px" /><br />– There were definitely a few tricky ones! We were expecting this, but still very difficult to prepare for everything. Beer and brewing is such a big field that we’re definitely both still learning a few things. I was expecting some questions about why we would want to analyse or monitor beers, but I think everyone present had a good grasp of the importance of beer quality and the role of quality control in making great products! says Joshua Mayers.<br /><br /><strong>Which reactions and feedback did you get from the visitors?</strong><br />– We’ve had such nice feedback; it really makes it feel worthwhile when you get it, especially when it comes from people whose beer you enjoy! We will hopefully run a similar event in the near future for those who missed it, so keep your eyes peeled, says Joshua Mayers.<br /><br />Lisbeth Olsson is Head of Division and she’s please to see industrial biotechnology being used in this way.<br />– I think it's great that our research and knowledge is utilized this way, she says. The insight on the issues faced in the industry gives us a better understanding for what is important to gain an in-depth knowledge of.<br /></p> <div>And in the long term, Joshua Mayers and Fábio Luis Da Silva Faria Oliveira hope to be able to start some tailored research projects with some of the breweries, maybe if they have a specific problem or solve, or a process they want to start or improve. To really use their skill-sets in the design and execution of experiments to yield useful data.<br /><br /></div> <p>Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br /></p>Fri, 06 Apr 2018 15:00:00 +0200 with Chalmers to reduce malnutrition<p><b>​Chalmers researcher Ulf Svanberg wanted to devote his time to pressing global problems, like the malnourished population of low-income countries. The cooperation with Tanzania and Mozambique has resulted in unique applications of germinated flour and lactic fermented gruels which have improved the health of women and children.</b></p>​After three years at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Ulf Svanberg was quite tired of heat exchangers and oil refineries and turned to Food and Nutrition Science. But once he got there, he was not particularly interested in finding a smoother way to make ketchup.<br />As early as the mid-1970’s, he was involved in forming a multidisciplinary group, interested in finding out the actual reasons behind malnutrition in the least developed countries.<br /><br /><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/1-Ulf%20och%20Serafina.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px" /><br />Ulf Svanberg together with Serafina Vilanculos, PhD student from Mozambique. Photo: Anna-Lena Lundqvist<br /><br /><strong>Malnutrition due to lack of food</strong><br /><br />In the 1970’s and -80’s, it was believed that malnutrition was due only to protein deficiency.<br />– Later, we realized that malnutrition was mainly due to the fact that people simply didn’t receive enough amounts of nutritious food, Ulf Svanberg says.<br />– Above all, infants and young children were affected and an important reason was the gruel made of corn. It has to be diluted with a lot of water, and therefore has a low nutritional value. With a smaller amount of water, the gruel becomes more nutritious, but also thicker and much harder for small children to eat.<br /><br /><strong>Magic that porridge becomes gruel</strong><br /><br />Together with the first doctoral student from Tanzania Food and Nutrition Institute, TFNC, Ulf Svanberg found that a nutritious liquid gruel could be made of thick porridge using germinated flour – a flour they named <em>Power flour</em>.<br />– We were standing in the Chalmers lab with the thick porridge that we mixed with a teaspoon of <em>power flour</em>. And we were fascinated to see the porridge turn into a liquid gruel in just a few minutes! The <em>power flour</em>, made of sprouted millet or sorghum, contains activated amylase enzymes that will degrade the starch molecules in the thick porridge, and thereby releases water to make it liquid. The use of germinated flour has been a long traditional practice in Tanzania, not however for making weaning foods, but for local beer production.<br /><table class=" chalmersTable-default " width="100%" cellspacing="0" style="font-size:1em"><tbody><tr class="chalmersTableHeaderRow-default"><th class="chalmersTableHeaderFirstCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​<img class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/2-Porridge%20on%20spoon.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px" /></th> <th class="chalmersTableHeaderOddCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​</th> <th class="chalmersTableHeaderLastCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1"><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/3-Kimea%20gruel%20on%20spoon.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px" /></th></tr></tbody></table> <p><em>Power flour </em>mixed in porridge to make gruel – before and after. Photo: Ulf Svanberg<br /><br /><strong>The new method introduced by TFNC and UNICEF/WHO</strong><br /><br />– We had the opportunity to visit a village where the method would be taught. A few hundred mothers and children had gathered around a large barrel where traditional thick porridge was prepared. Staff from TFNC stirred a few cups of germinated flour into the porridge, which suddenly became a liquid gruel. Each mother then received a small cup of the gruel to give her child and they thought the whole process was pure magic.<br /><br /><strong>The children were dancing and singing</strong><br /><br />The sprouted flour – <em>Power flour </em>– was given the name <em>kimea </em>in Swahili, which means a sprout that grows big and strong.<br />– Sometimes when we got to the villages, the school children lined up and started to dance and sing: “Mom and Dad <em>Kimea </em>are coming”.<br />The method was spread through radio shows and Maternal Health Clinics that distributed instruction manuals in Swahili, showing mothers how to take care of their children, how to make germinated flour and use it to get a nutritious liquid gruel.<br />– It needed to be easy, the mothers should be able to make the gruel themselves at home in the small hut.</p> <table class="chalmersTable-default " width="100%" cellspacing="0" style="font-size:1em"><tbody><tr class="chalmersTableHeaderRow-default"><th class="chalmersTableHeaderFirstCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​<img class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/4-Kimea%20drinking%20child550.jpg" width="550" height="384" alt="" style="margin:5px" /></th> <th class="chalmersTableHeaderLastCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​</th></tr></tbody></table>  Child drinking gruel made with <em>kimea</em>. Photo: Ulf Svanberg<p><strong><br />Gruel to prevent diarrhea</strong><br /><br />Another result of Ulf Svanberg’s research is a lactic acid fermented gruel which help prevent small children from being infected with diarrheal diseases. Diarrhea is as big a problem as malnutrition, and poses an acute threat to the child, who might die within a few days.<br />In the villages, the population traditionally uses the method of producing fermented gruels, and Ulf Svanberg together with one of his doctoral students developed that technique further by using the germinated flour <em>kimea</em>.<br />– One of our PhD students showed in a number of studies that the most common diarrhea bacteria like shigella, campylobacter, salmonella or toxigenic e-coli did not survive in this fermented gruel. We had then found a way to prevent small children from getting diarrhea due to contaminated gruel.<br /><br /><strong>Traditional methods cures iron deficiency</strong><br /><br />The researchers also discovered that fermentation together with added germinated flour had a unique ability to break down phytic acid in the gruel – an antinutrient that binds iron and makes it unavailable for absorption. By degrading the phytic acid, the iron becomes more accessible.<br />– More than half of all young children in developing countries suffer from iron deficiency, which put them in risk of life-long problems. We now discovered means to degrade the phytic acid by a simple modification of traditional cooking methods.<br />TFNC has the responsibility to educate Health and Nutrition workers to be placed in the regions at Mother and Child Health clinics, informing about the importance about child care and how to prepare nutritious and safe foods for young children with the use of <em>kimea </em>and improved fermentation techniques.<br /></p> <table class="chalmersTable-default " width="100%" cellspacing="0" style="font-size:1em"><tbody><tr class="chalmersTableHeaderRow-default"><th class="chalmersTableHeaderFirstCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​<img class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/5-Tanzanian%20family%20sharing%20meal550.jpg" width="550" height="364" alt="" style="margin:5px" /></th> <th class="chalmersTableHeaderLastCol-default" rowspan="1" colspan="1">​</th></tr></tbody></table> The Tanzanian family shares a meal with corn porridge and vegetables full of vitamin A. Photo: Ellen Hedrén<br /><br /><strong>Former PhD students spread the knowledge</strong><br /><br />From the mid-1980’s to this day, six staff members from TFNC have done their doctoral studies at Chalmers under Ulf Svanberg’s supervision.<br />All six have stayed in Tanzania or another African country after graduation, and have been able to apply their research findings into practical action. The first doctoral candidate became head of the National Food Research Centre in Botswana. The second became head of TFNC and is also the president’s adviser on nutrition issues. A third became Head of the National Research Council for Science and Technology, and several continued working as heads of departments at TFNC.<br /><br />One of Ulf Svanberg’s former PhD students is Generose Mulokozi, a specialist in nutrition and vitamin supplementation and a student at Chalmers from 1998 to 2002. At the same time, she worked at TNFC before becoming responsible for a USAID programme devoted to enrich locally produced baby foods with vitamins and minerals. Generose Mulokozi is now in charge of a new programme, covering a large part of Tanzania that focuses on malnourished children under the age of five.<br />– My research results from Chalmers have been widely used to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition in women and children in Tanzania. Among other things, all children between the ages of six months and five years, receive vitamin A twice a year and vitamin enriched foods, she says.<br /><br /><strong>Defining the problems themselves</strong><br /><br />The success of the research projects, and the fact that they made some real change, is partly due to that the researchers in Tanzania themselves were identifying the health problems related to the diet, says Ulf Svanberg.<br />– It’s far too common for us to focus on what we think is an interesting research problem, rather than something of relevance to a developing country.<br /><br /><br />Text: Ragnhild Larsson/Mia Malmstedt<br /><p> </p>Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:00:00 +0100 researcher gets prize for presentation<p><b>​Is it possible to present one’s research in 400 seconds? Yes, it is! PhD student Jenny Arnling Bååth did it so well that she received a prize for her efforts.</b></p>​<img class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/IndBio/PechaKuchaJenny_300.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px" />It was before the Swedish Paper and Cellulose Engineers Association, SPCI's, annual conference Ekmandagar 2018, that Jenny Arnling Bååth, PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and working within the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, was asked if she would like to go to Stockholm to present her research according to the Pecha Kucha format.<br />– I enjoy doing things like that and saw it more like a fun experience. It wasn’t until I was going up on stage that I realized it was a contest! says Jenny Arnling Bååth.<br /><br />Pecha Kucha is a presentation format where one shows 20 images in 20 seconds each, making the timing and practicing very important. And Jenny Arnling Bååth scored well on all the criteria – a neat, scientific and understandable presentation with good timing as she talked about her research. Very simplified she works with using residual products from the wood industry. And with the help of specific enzymes, breaking chemical bonds between the long polymer chains in the wood, she can get pure polymers, which can be used as building blocks to make materials for packaging, plastics, textile materials, biofuel and chemicals.<br />– I search in nature to find enzymes to cut these chemical linkages. And I've found promising enzymes in bacteria and in filamentous fungi, so I talked about that in my presentation, says Jenny Arnling Bååth.<br /><br />The audience had mentometers and consisted of nearly 200 people from different areas of the pulp and paper industry. The winners were then appointed by a jury and Jenny was awarded the second prize.<br />– They said I was very close to first prize and that the audience really enjoyed my presentation so I’m happy anyway, says Jenny Arnling Bååth.<br /><br />In addition to the honor to receive a second prize, she is also awarded 20,000 SEK from the Gunnar Sundblad Foundation, earmarked for travelling related to her research. But Jenny Arnling Bååth has no set plan for where she will go.<br />– Well, I’m doing my last year as a PhD student now so I'm really going to make use of it, says Jenny Arnling Bååth.<br />– I am discussing with my supervisors to visit another research group somewhere and perhaps do some complimentary analyses for my thesis. I think that could be very inspiring!<br /><br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: Camilla Herrera/Svensk Papperstidning <br />Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:00:00 +0100 foods with digital bacteria<p><b>​Can fermented foods be used to amend one’s health through the gut microbiota? The international food company Danone collaborates with Chalmers to improve its dairy products.</b></p>​<br />The gastrointestinal tract is approximately seven meters long and contains about 1,000 different types of bacteria which together form the so-called intestinal flora, or microbiota. Most bacteria are good and help the body to stay healthy. But many researchers believe that the absence or presence of some bacteria, also could cause different types of diseases, obesity and perhaps even neurological disorders such as autism.<br /><br />At the Department of Biology and Biotechnology, Professor Jens Nielsen and his team have been working for a few years to study and simulate the gastrointestinal bacteria. Not least, to find out how the bacteria interact with, and affect, each other. The group has developed mathematical models that uses digital bacteria, which allows researchers to carry out experiments in the computer instead of in the laboratory.<br />Digital experiments are easier, cheaper and quicker than actual laboratory experiments. For a couple of years, Chalmers has partnered with the global food company Danone to analyze data from their fermented products used in clinical trials. Danone wants to see how consumption of these products can promote health through the gut.<br /><br />The researcher Parizad Babaei is running the project and explains that Danone has chosen five different bacteria that they want Chalmers to investigate.<br />– We look at and simulate how the bacteria work together during fermentation – if any bacterium is stronger and outgrows the others, if some bacteria are faster or slower than the others and so on. And thus we can investigate the potential interaction between these five bacteria with our “digital microbiota”, she says.<br /><br />Professor Jens Nielsen is proud that Danone recognizes the possibilities with these digital bacteria and he is pleased that their cooperation also benefits both parties.<br />– The collaboration with Danone is an excellent example of how our systems biology competences can be applied and also gain detailed insight into production of fermented food products, but also how we can use these technologies to get new insight into the health effects of commercialized products, says Jens Nielsen.<br /><br />So, through the work conducted at Chalmers in collaboration with Danone, the researchers get a greater knowledge of how the bacteria interact with each other and should be able to design products with bacteria that can compete with bad ones and shape more available space for good ones, with the aim to create the best conditions for a stable microbiota, faster recovery and a healthy life. <br />Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:00:00 +0100 Foundation Award presented to Lisbeth Olsson<p><b>​This year&#39;s Foundation Award goes to Professor Lisbeth Olsson at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology. She is one of the most prominent researchers at Chalmers and she has shown great commitment in many areas.</b></p>​Lisbeth Olsson has in a short time established a large research group in industrial biotechnology and her collaborative research, often around innovative ideas whose potentials are not yet known, leading to knowledge building and new practices for her partners which has a great potential for impact.<br /><br />She also shows great commitment in all levels of education, from basic to research level, and to strong leadership in various parts of the Chalmers organization. Already when Lisbeth was recruited to Chalmers, she started discussions with several other Chalmers researchers on cross-border research collaborations. These collaborations have, among other things, led to the creation of the KAW-funded center Wallenberg Wood Science Center, the strategic research program Chalmers Energy Initiative and the Formas-funded cooperation project BioBuF, which engages groups from four institutions at Chalmers and RISE. Her efforts as Area of Advance leader for Energy have been characterized by an engagement for all activities and areas regardless of Chalmers institutional boundaries.<br /><br />The Award comprises a personal payment of SEK 25,000 (before taxes) and an activity grant of SEK 100,000.<br /><br />An important task of the Chalmers University of Technology Foundation is to stimulate the development of the University's activities. For many years the Foundation has contributed to quality and renewal through funding within selected areas. The Foundation Award was established to highlight, in particular, the crucial importance of Chalmers employees to the success of the University and to focus on examples that act as a source of inspiration. The Award is presented once each year and was presented for the first time in 2006.Fri, 09 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0100 biotechnology ten years at Chalmers<p><b>​The research field of industrial biotechnology is celebrating ten years at Chalmers in March. At first, the division consisted of a few people. Today it has grown considerably, and constitutes an important partner in the field of bioeconomy.</b></p><strong>​<br />Lisbeth Olsson, you are a Professor and Head of division at Industrial Biotechnology, and you have been involved since the beginning. How does it feel to celebrate 10 years?</strong><br /><br />–    Great fun, it has been an exciting journey and it’s incredible to work in this field. It is, and has been, inspiring to work with so many people who are passionate about our field of research. Also, the development at Chalmers during these years have enabled industrial biotechnology to form and grow.<br /><br /><strong>How has the division developed during this decade?</strong><br /><br />–    The division, or research group, was born as I was recruited to Chalmers. To begin with, we were a few people who grew into a group of twelve people within the first year. Today the group consists of thirty-five employees. Initially, research focused on bioethanol production from biomass, today the field has evolved and we are now working to design and use enzymes and microorganisms used to produce biofuels, biochemicals and materials in so-called biorefineries.<br /><br /><strong>Tell us about the beginning!</strong><br /><br />–    Today we have outgrown our facilities, but when we started there were empty corridors and empty labs – it seems almost unbelievable now! It has been a great opportunity and inspiration to be allowed to build this division from scratch.<br /><br /><strong>Some special memories from these ten years?</strong><br /><br />–    We have examinated 11 PhD students – each thesis defence is special, since this is the culmination of several years of dedicated work on developing a research area. We received a large grant for “strong research environment” in bioeconomy some five years ago, it was a peak as it has given us the opportunity to work widely within the division concerning a biorefinery concept.<br /> <br /><strong>What has the division’s development and growth meant for Chalmers? And for the field of research?</strong><br /><br />–    Since the area of industrial biotechnology was established at Chalmers, we have been able to become an important partner in the interdisciplinary work of bioeconomy. For example, we contribute within the Chalmers Energy Area of Advance, and Wallenberg Wood Science Center. I believe that the interdisciplinary approach has helped us to be successful and have shaped how we think and work in the area between basic and applied research. We have also recruited younger PIs in recent years, and their competences help to further develop our field.<br /> <br /><strong>How will you celebrate?</strong><br /><br />–    We have a seminar on March 23, and afterwards there’s a party with present and past colleagues. It will be great to reunite.<br /><br /><br />Text: Mia Malmstedt<br />Photo: Martina Butorac<br />Tue, 27 Feb 2018 15:00:00 +0100 interviewed in Swedish radio<p><b>​Pernilla Wittung Stafshede, professor and Head of Division of Chemical Biology, was interviewed in “Swedish radio”.</b></p>​She talked about her research, the possibility for a future cure for Parkinson’s disease and much more. Here’s a <a href=";artikel=6876280">link to the interview (in Swedish)</a> and also a link to the <a href=";pnref=story">Facebook video</a>.<br /><br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: Per Dahlberg/Sveriges RadioTue, 13 Feb 2018 11:00:00 +0100 fuels are based on baker’s yeast<p><b>​Perfumes, flavours and biofuels from regular baker’s yeast. Now Chalmers makes further breakthrough in the search for more sustainable industrial chemicals.</b></p>Fatty acids form the basis of many industrial chemicals and are included in most plastics, flavours and perfumes, solvents and fuels. While fossil oils, animal fats or plant oils are traditionally used in the chemical production of those types of products, we have, since a few years back, experienced the transition towards more sustainable alternative such as using cell factories, e.g. the regular baker’s yeast, to obtain the necessary fatty acids. However, a common bottleneck arising from these alternatives remains the insufficient production of fatty acids to meet levels of the petrochemical industry. <br /><br />A problem to which Chalmers researchers Paulo Teixeira and Raphael Ferreira in Jens Nielsen’s team at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology are now one step closer to solve. <br /><br />– We have found a way to remove and modify the genes in the yeast cells to start producing large amounts of fatty acids, says Paulo Teixeira. <br />– It was amazing when I saw the first graphs about the amount of fatty acids that we now can bring out. I barely thought it was true! says Raphael Ferreira. <br /><br />While other researchers often invest in adding genes to increase fatty acid production, Paulo Teixeira and Raphael Ferreira have instead chosen to remove certain genes, thus reprogramming the lipid metabolism of the yeast. Paulo Teixeira describes how it works. <br />– Imagine that lipid metabolism is like roads and crossroads and the fatty acids are cars. A car can drive along different roads and come to different places. But by closing certain roads, as we do when we remove certain genes, we force the cars to only drive along the roads we leave open and thus all the cars – the fatty acids – end up in the same place, he says. <br /><br />Now as a confirmation on their pioneering research, their paper is published in the prestigious scientific journal “Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America” – PNAS. <br /><br />– I was super happy when our paper was accepted! says Paulo Teixeira. <br />– Our research proves that you do not necessarily need to add genes. But by modifying and deleting certain genes you can achieve amazing results. <br /><br />– The great thing about this is that these new yeast cells that we created can now be used by other people together with other successful strategies to build even better yeast cells to produce fatty acids and one day reach those industrial levels we all want, says Raphael Ferreira. <br /><br />Read more in the scientific article in PNAS: <a href="">Redirection of lipid flux toward phospholipids in yeast increases fatty acid turnover and secretion</a><br /><br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg <br />Photo: Martina Butorac Mon, 22 Jan 2018 11:00:00 +0100 Swedish Research Council believes in Chalmers and Fudan<p><b>​Can specific dietary fiber protect against cardiovascular disease? This becomes a worldwide issue as Chalmers receives money from the Swedish Research Council and intensifies the cooperation with Fudan University in Shanghai.</b></p>​Chalmers and the leading Chinese Fudan university has already begun a study on the importance of dietary fiber for health and disease prevention. Now the Swedish Research Council has allocated SEK 3 million to Professor Rikard Landberg and his research team at the Division of Food and Nutrition Science to develop and deepen the project together with Fudan, who receives the same amount of money from the Chinese Research Council.<br />– The study is based on a previous project where we have already observed that bioprocessed rye fibers (rye bran fermented with a specific bacterial strain) have interesting effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, for example the inflammatory marker CRP and on blood lipids, says Rikard Landberg.<br />– With the funding from the Swedish Research Council, we will now move on to investigate whether the effects we have  found can be linked to changes in gut microbiota. In a new study, we will also investigate whether we can find biomarkers in the blood that tell us how individuals respond to a diet rich in dietary fiber that can easily be utilized by the intestinal bacteria. The goal is to be able to use such biomarkers to guide people to a personalized diet optimal for them.<br /><br />The project will run for three years and involve 10-15 researchers at different levels from China and Sweden. The Chalmers- team will hire a postdoc to work closely with a corresponding researcher at Fudan, both via the internet and on site in China and Sweden.<br /><br /><strong>What does this funding mean for you and for Chalmers?</strong><br /><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/rikard_200.jpg" alt="" style="height:195px;width:148px;margin:5px" />– It is very rewarding that we received funding from the Swedish Research Council to continue developing the cooperation we have built with Fudan University. Through this collaboration we get opportunities to do large human studies where we can test our hypotheses in people; which is otherwise very costly to implement in Europe. And because we have already collaborated, we know that everything works and how to deal with different parts of such investigations, which could otherwise be a major challenge in this type of project, says Rikard Landberg.<br />– In addition, the project also enables Chalmers to reach the world and strengthen cooperation with China, not least to attract talented young researchers to Sweden and Gothenburg. I also believe that the project can have major positive benefits for parts of the Swedish food industry that have participated in previous projects and which will now benefit from the results generated by the project.<br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: and Martina Butorac<br /><br />Mon, 08 Jan 2018 11:00:00 +0100 Cancer Society funds researchers<p><b>​Unique biomarkers for cancer and individualized medication can become reality with Chalmers research. Now, the Swedish Cancer Society supports Chalmers for the first time in more than a decade.</b></p>​The Professors Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede and Jens Nielsen, as well as Associate Professor Fredrik Westerlund at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology, have received SEK 2.4 million each. And they are pleased that the Swedish Cancer Society is supportive of their research.<br />– Funding from the Swedish Cancer Society emphasizes that Chalmers is working with cancer research and it has a strong symbolic value, says Jens Nielsen.<br /><img src="/SiteCollectionImages/Areas%20of%20Advance/Livsvetenskaper/Cancerfonden_200.jpg" class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" alt="" style="margin:5px" /><br />The three researchers have different approaches to the fight against cancer. Jens Nielsen's project focuses on the new biomarker that he has identified and now wants to verify, both on a larger group of patients and on different types of cancer. Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede studies copper transport proteins and their role in the emergence of tumors, which in the long term can lead to a whole new way of attacking cancer. Fredrik Westerlund’s project is already ongoing and he is working on a method to predetermine a patient-adapted medicine dose before starting the cancer treatment.<br /><br />And all three researchers see the Swedish Cancer Society participation as a token that Chalmers biological research is important for curing more forms of cancer in the future.<br />– This is great for Chalmers! says Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede.<br />– We have spent a long time investing in Life science, and this proves that Chalmers is conducting high-quality cancer research today. To me, it is also proof that the Swedish Cancer Society, as a cancer expert, believes in me and my research group, even though we come from the mechanistic biophysical angle, she says.<br /><br />In addition to the grants making him able to develop his own project, Fredrik Westerlund also hopes that the funding from the Swedish Cancer Society can give the outside world a broader and more diversified view on Chalmers different specialties.<br />– It's great if it makes more people aware that Chalmers doesn’t only just focus on technology but is also conducting outstanding biological research, he says.<br />– And I also hope that more researchers at Chalmers will see that you can apply for this type of grants.<br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: Cancerfonden/Scandinav/Leif Johansson<br />Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0100 Landberg Head of division<p><b>​Making Chalmers biological food and nutrition research world famous, develop new forms of cooperation ways to cooperate and sharpen the research. Those are a few things that professor Rikard Landberg wants to focus on as he enters in his new position as Head of Division of Food and Nutrition Science.</b></p><p>​Rikard Landberg is taking over as Head of Division of Food and Nutrition Science by January 2018 as professor Ann-Sofie Sandberg turns 67 in March. And he is looking forward to this new role.<br />– It feels good and and it’s a natural consequence from me being recruited to Chalmers. I have been preparing for this the passing year and have had time to get my research group settled in before I now make plans for the whole department, says Rikard Landberg.<br /><br />Rikard Landberg has been a professor in Food and Health at the department of Biology and Biological Engineering since 2016 when he was recruited from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with the position of Head of division in sight. A quite complicated task.<br />– Ann-Sofie has built this area of research from the bottom up at Chalmers and she is the body and soul of the division which I am now to develop, says Rikard Landberg.<br />– She has also developed a very large network at Chalmers and in Gothenburg through her many important positions throughout the years. So, it's with a great deal of humility that I take over from Ann-Sofie.<br /><br />Ann-Sofie Sandberg is confident that Rikard Landberg will develop the division in the right direction.<br />– I’m stepping down from the position as Head of division with mixed feelings, naturally. The division has been my baby. But I have worked with Rikard during the last year and he’s well prepared for the task. I really feel that the division is in good hands! And I am hoping to get to spend more time on my own research, says Ann-Sofie Sandberg.<br /><br />Rikard Landberg will focus on sharpening the research and the education of the division even more, and he wants to make Chalmers famous for its food and nutrition division worldwide.<br />– I will also study how we work internally to make sure that all coworkers have a distinct aim and that they get adequate input and feedback on their work, says Rikard Landberg.<br />– It’s also very important that we recruit and incubate good young researchers.<br />Furthermore, he wants to focus on establishing interaction with the other actors in the region, for example with Sahlgrenska.<br />– Not that many places in Sweden have Food and Nutrition, Microbiology, Medicine and Systems and Synthetic Biology in the same area and I want to take advantage of that, says Rikard Landberg.<br />– Right now we are learning how to create a toolbox for personalized nutrition that may lead to personalized dietary guidelines. Chalmers has a golden opportunity to contribute to the absolute front of this area.</p> <p><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg</p>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 16:00:00 +0100 can be engineered to create protein pharmaceuticals<p><b>​It took several years, but a research team headed by Professor Jens Nielsen at Chalmers University of Technology has finally succeeded in mapping out the complex metabolism of yeast cells. The breakthrough, recently published in an article in Nature Communications, means a huge step forward in the potential to more efficiently produce protein therapies for diseases such as cancer.</b></p>​The market for pharmaceuticals that mimic the body’s own proteins – protein-based therapeutics – is exploding. Some of them are relatively simple to manufacture in yeast-based cell factories. Insulin and HPV vaccine are two examples that are already under production, but other therapies, such as antibodies to various forms of cancer, are significantly more difficult to manufacture.<br /><br /><img src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/SysBio/news201712_JN.jpg" class="chalmersPosition-FloatLeft" width="130" height="159" alt="" style="margin:5px" />“They are currently produced using a cell factory based on a single cell from a Chinese hamster. It’s an extremely expensive process. If we can get yeast cells to do the same thing, it will be significantly cheaper – perhaps 10% of what it costs today. Our vision is to eventually be able to mass-produce and supply the entire world with therapies that are too expensive for many countries today,” says Jens Nielsen, professor of systems biology.<br /><br /><span><span><span><span><span><img src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/SysBio/news201712_DP.jpg" class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" width="130" height="160" alt="" style="margin:5px" /></span></span></span></span></span>In collaboration with Associate Professor Dina Petranovic and Mathias Uhlén’s<span><span></span></span> research<span><span><span></span></span></span> team at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Jens Nielsen has been mapping <span><span><span><span></span></span></span></span>out th<span></span>e complex metabolism of yeast cells for four years.<br /><br />“We’ve been studying the metabolism of a yeast that we already know is a good protein producer. And we found the mechanisms that can be used to make the process even more efficient. The next step is to prove that we can actually produce antibodies in such quantities that costs are reduced.”<br /><br />The discussion has mainly been about cancer, but there are many other diseases, for example Alzheimer’s, diabetes and MS, that could potentially be treated by yeast-based protein therapies. How distant a future are we talking about?<br /><br />“Our part of the process is fast, but pharmaceuticals always take a long time to develop. It could be a possibility in five years, but should absolutely be on the market in ten,” Nielsen says.<br /><br />Jens Nielsen has been making headlines the past few months. In addition to his publication in Nature Communications, he has recently received three prestigious awards.<br /><br />On 31 October he received the world’s biggest award for innovation in alternative fuels for transportation – <a href="" target="_blank">the Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize</a>, in Israel. Alternative fuels? Yes, plain old yeast can be used for a lot, and Nielsen’s award was for his contribution to processes for producing hydrocarbons from yeast, which will advance new biofuels. Earlier in October he received the prestigious <a href="/en/news/Pages/Energy-award-to-Jens-Nielsen-for-biofuels-from-yeast.aspx" target="_blank">Energy Frontiers Award from the Italian oil company Eni</a> for the same type of research. And just a week before he left for Israel, he was awarded the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA)’s gold medal for innovative and creative research in systems biology.<br /><br />“Yeast is a superb modelling system. Almost everything in yeast is also found in humans. We have complete computer models of the metabolism of yeast, and we use the same type of models to study human metabolism,” Nielsen explained when he received the IVA award. <br /><br /><strong>More about making the metabolism in yeast more effective</strong><br />The protein production of yeast cells comprises more than 100 different processes in which proteins are modified and transported out of the cell. Around 200 enzymes are involved, which makes it a very complex system to engineer. In order to optimize protein production, it is necessary to chart how these 200 enzymes function and work. In the study, this has been done by altering the genetic set of certain key genes, using advanced screening methods in combination with modern genome sequencing techniques.<br /><br />Read more about how in the scientific article in Nature Communications: <a href="" target="_blank">Efficient protein production by yeast requires global tuning of metabolism</a><br /><br />Text: Christian BorgMon, 11 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0100