News: Bioteknik related to Chalmers University of TechnologyWed, 13 Jun 2018 10:04:27 +0200 scientist gets double attention<p><b>​She has demonstrated great scientific skills in a complex degree project, she masters many techniques and has been published in a journal of high scientific impact. These are some of the reasons that Semhar Ghirmai, now a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, has been awarded the Karl-Erik Sahlberg&#39;s donation of SEK 50,000.</b></p>​​<span style="background-color:initial"><strong>Congratulations Semhar! You receive this scholarship for your master’s degree in Chemistry at Lund University, where you studied blood substitutes. What is that?</strong></span><div>– I spent six months in Japan at Nara Medical University where they develop artificial blood substitutes from donated blood that has become too old to use in hospitals. Some of the benefits of blood substitutes are that there’s no risk of bloodborne diseases, it can be used by all blood types and it can last for several years, in comparison to today's blood bags that must be discarded after 42 days. One of the difficulties has got to do with the protein hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and is needed to carry oxygen throughout the body, but the hemoglobin can quickly oxidize and change shape into methemoglobin, which gives problems with oxygenating the body's tissues. This is where I got the opportunity to make an effort in research by studying various organic substances that we could add to reduce the methemoglobin and thus prolong the life of the artificial blood substitute.</div> <div><br /></div> <div><strong>How did you proceed in your work?</strong></div> <div>– We used data from previous experiments and then tested the substances we selected in vitro, i.e. in test tubes before we continued to evaluate them on rats.</div> <div><br /></div> <div><strong>Now you are a PhD student here at Chalmers working with fish. Tell us – what problem do you look at, and what can be the solution?</strong></div> <div>– One of the biggest challenges for many who work with blood is how hemoglobin oxidizes and changes. I have a project with Professor Ingrid Undeland, where we look at the problem from a food and nutrition perspective. As the hemoglobin in the fish blood comes in contact with the fish meat, it starts to break down the valuable omega-3 fatty acids of the meat, which quickly deteriorates the quality of the fish. Right now, we are investigating different strategies to be able to remove as much blood as possible from the fish without the hemoglobin coming in contact with the muscle tissue. The goal is to reduce food waste and to achieve as sustainable a fishing industry as possible in the future.</div> <div><br /></div> <div><strong>Your degree project has been published as an article in the scientific journal &quot;Artificial Cells, Nanomedicine and Biotechnology&quot;. What were your thoughts when you got it accepted?</strong></div> <div>– It's my first article so it was an incredible feeling! I had my mind set on publishing my degree project before I started it, but I still could not really understand that it was true until I saw the article in final format.</div> <div><br /></div> <div><strong>At the end of May, you received the Karl-Erik Sahlberg scholarship at a ceremony at Lund University. How was it?</strong></div> <div>– Yes, it was very nice. The award ceremony for the scholarship was included in the university's graduation ceremony and it was fun to be celebrated together with the graduation students. Two of Karl-Erik Sahlberg's grandchildren handed me the prize, and it was really an honor to meet them and express my gratitude to the family.</div> <div><br /></div> <div><strong>How will you use the money?</strong></div> <div>– Karl-Erik Sahlberg's purpose with the scholarship was to support a good chemistry student in her first year as newly graduated, so I’ll make sure that the money is going to be of good use. But I haven’t decided on the details, just yet.</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg</div> <div>Photo: Johan Bodell</div> <div><br /></div>Wed, 13 Jun 2018 10:00:00 +0200 and nutrition makes an entry in Young Academy of Sweden<p><b>​Professor Rikard Landberg has been elected as one of eight new members in Young Academy of Sweden. It is the first time that the field of food and nutrition is represented and the young professor looks forward to working with the academy.– It&#39;s a great opportunity to influence! says Rikard Landberg.</b></p>​Young Academy of Sweden started in 2011 with the view to gain research-political influence, promote interdisciplinary cooperation and to reach out and raise the position of science in society. Anyone who wishes to apply as a member, must have had their theses defense no more than 10 years ago.<br /><br />– It was nine years since mine, so I thought this was my last chance and applied, says Rikard Landberg.<br /><br />The first selection is based on the scientific view to cull truly talented researchers. Thereafter, aspirants are called for an interview to filter people with the right drive as well as a national, gender and scientific profileration. After a while, the message came that Rikard Landberg had been elected as one of the eight new members in Young Academy of Sweden.<br /><br />– I was very pleased of course, because obviously it is a recognition of my work! But I am also very pleased that food science and nutrition are represented for the first time. I am working hard to raise the status of my subject and to make sure that the research conducted is to be of the highest degree, says Rikard Landberg.<br /><br />The members are assigned for five years and are replaced successively, which means that the academy is constantly renewed while there are always seniors. So far, the academy has been touring with career seminars at universities, pushing the issue of Assistant University Lecturer, visiting schools, having round table discussions with the Swedish Research Council and handing out the &quot;For Women in Science&quot; Prize. They meet on two occasions every six months and the members are included in committees and groups of themes where engaging is important.<br /><br />– I see opportunities to influence particularly by working towards the whole political machinery. For example, discussing strategic and research relevant initiatives with groups of parliament, talking about how to distribute the money and how Sweden should invest, says Rikard Landberg. I think the Young Academy of Sweden has a great influence, including as a consultation body. And of course, it is important not only for me, but also for Chalmers, to be represented in an independent organization of young, committed researchers.<br /><br />Rikard Landberg is looking forward to the cooperation with the other members <br /><br />– I will enjoy the interaction with all those engaged and talented researchers who are so committed! And I also look forward to gaining transparency from other research areas. Another important role for the academy is to come out and talk with younger people, already at an undergraduate level, about what it's like to be a researcher and to show how it can be done so that more people open their eyes for research, instead of them going straight to the industry. That is something I want to contribute to.<br /><br /><strong>How will you celebrate?</strong><br />– I have already celebrated! A glass of champagne when I got the good news and then during the Academy anniversary meeting. I am very glad to have such great prerequisites and the best chance to conduct the research I want.<br /><br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: Martina Butorac<br /><br />Philippe Tassin, associate professor of Physics at Chalmers, as also elected to the Academy at the same time. Read more about him <a href="/sv/institutioner/fysik/nyheter/Sidor/En-ljusets-mastare-tar-plats-i-Sveriges-unga-akademi.aspx">here</a>.<br />Mon, 28 May 2018 09:00:00 +0200 for development in the US<p><b>​An environmental change, time to focus and think new thoughts. Professor Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede is looking forward to her trip to the United States, made possible by a Barbro Osher scholarship.</b></p><p>​During two summer months, Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede will visit Los Angeles to work at the prestigious California Institute of Technology, Caltech. Chemistry professor Jacqueline Barton will act as her host.<br /><br />“I was there in the spring of 2015 on a sabbatical. It was a really nice environmental change and I got some new research ideas as well as collaborations. But my family was there with me, and so I also had to focus on our children’s schooling and homework. This time I will be mostly by myself, and the family will come over for a shorter visit”, says Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, and continues:<br />“It’s stimulating to be in a place where top research is done in every corner, and almost every student is a future professor.”<br /><br />During the stay, Wittung-Stafshede will attend the host’s group meetings, listen to seminars and visit her collaborators in different parts of California; activities at US universities continue as usual during the summer, unlike in Sweden.<br /><br />She also plans to focus on writing some research articles of her own.<br /><br />“This period will be a breathing space, an opportunity for me to think freely while being in a stimulating environment. There are so many things to do at Chalmers, as well as other assignments, during the semesters.”<br /><br />The trip is paid for by a scholarship from the Barbro Oshers Pro Suecia Foundation (see facts below). Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede didn’t know about the foundation until recently, and she would like to let more researchers know about the possibility of seeking financial support for similar trips.<br /><br />In addition to her research, Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede is engaged in equality issues, both within the academy in general and at Chalmers.<br /><br />“My host at Caltech is my female role model. She is an extremely successful woman who is in charge of a large research group at the same time as she is Head of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. I usually act as a mentor for younger colleagues – which I love to do. But this summer, I will use my host as a mentor for myself.”<br /><br /><strong>Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation</strong><br />Barbro Osher is a Swedish patron and the Swedish Consul General in San Francisco. She has made large donations to, among other things, Swedish cultural institutions and runs the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, through which Chalmers can support researchers’ stays in the United States. Applicants must be PhD’s and employed at Chalmers, heading their own research group, but the money can also be sought for, for example, a PhD student. Read more <a href="/insidan/SV/utbildning-och-forskning/soka-pengar/stipendier-for-forskare/barbro-oshers-pro-suecia">here (in Swedish). </a><br /></p> <p>Text: Mia Malmstedt <br />Photo: Johan Bodell</p>Fri, 25 May 2018 14:00:00 +0200 and Synthetic Biology celebrate ten years at Chalmers<p><b>​Ten years ago, the research area of systems biology was established at Chalmers. Today, they constitute their own division, whose research is world-leading and the international prices rain down on them. Professor Jens Nielsen is Head of Division and it all started with him.</b></p>​<strong>Congratulations to ten years! How does it feel?</strong><br />– Fantastic! When I was recruited from Denmark to Chalmers, I was asked to form a new department, but I did not want to do that straight away. I wanted to focus on my research and to build the new group of researchers. And that was the right decision, because it was really good to grow up at the Department of Chemistry and Biological engineering, and even though we were divided into two departments in 2015, we still have a close collaboration.<br /><br /><strong>Can you describe where the division is today?</strong><br />– We are world leaders in three out of four of the key areas which form our core research; human metabolism, how yeast can help to manufacture new chemicals or biofuels, and our model of yeast metabolism which can be used to understand the aging processes and how it all fits together. And we must not forget our newest area; graphene and how that can be used in biological engineering. We have a very strong international profile, which attracts people from all over the world.<br /><br /><strong>What do you remember from when you started?</strong><br />– In Denmark, I had a lot of staff and responsibility, but here I suddenly got time and peace for my own research. There I worked with a large research group of about 40 people and with many different microorganisms and fungi. I brought ten people with me to Chalmers and decided to focus mainly on yeast. Our vision was to become world-leading and we achieved that!<br /><br /><strong>What are you proud of?</strong><br />– I am especially proud of the culture we have established in our division. Our culture represents openness, transparency and trust in each other and I think that attitude is very important for a researcher. In many other places the culture is very closed, secret and competitive. Of course, one might be afraid that others could steal your research, but as researchers we need to keep in mind that our main goal must be to bring the research forward, not ourselves. I think we have succeeded, which makes me see all our publications in reputable journals and all our great prices as evidence that our culture is functional.<br /><br /><strong>What do you think Systems and Synthetic Biology has meant for Chalmers?</strong><br />– In fact, I think we have helped put Chalmers on the map. Before our arrival, Chalmers had no research in the field of Life Science and now we conduct world-leading research right here!<br /><br /><strong>How will you celebrate?</strong><br />– We will celebrate with a two-day conference in Denmark in mid-June, where 180 of our researchers throughout the years will join. Today they work all over the world, so it will be a big reunion with the chance to exchange knowledge and a great opportunity to network and establish new acquaintances. I really look forward to it!<br /><br />Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg<br />Photo: Chalmers photo archiveThu, 24 May 2018 00:00:00 +0200 award to professor of food science<p><b>​The City of Gothenburg’s award of merit is given to people who have made significant efforts for the city. This year, the award goes to Professor Ann-Sofie Sandberg, who has devoted her time to building the area of food science at Chalmers.</b></p><p><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Food/Ann-SofieSandberg_17_250.jpg" width="167" height="250" alt="" style="height:220px;width:149px;margin:5px" />​”It feels great! Other awards have focused on research. This one shows that my work have been of importance for the society. Additionally, it’s a good thing to draw attention to Chalmers and to our area”, says Ann-Sofie Sandberg.<br /><br />She received the news by letter to her home address, and it was somewhat surprising. But the award is of course well deserved. Ann-Sofie Sandberg has for many years spent time and effort building food science as a strong area at Chalmers, while contributing to the development of the food area in the city as well as the region. She has also seen a national development, leading to Sweden getting a food strategy and strengthening the subject’s status.<br /><br />“Gothenburg has become a strong node nationally for nutrition and food science, and it’s largely due to Chalmers’ initiatives&quot;, she says, and explains why the area is so important:<br />“Food is means of life. A sustainable society requires a sustainable human being and sustainable food production, and we face major challenges today. The food produced must also contribute to better health and well-being. Globally, obesity and malnutrition are as important health issues as undernutrition.”<br /><br />Today, Ann-Sofie Sandberg’s baby, the Division of Food and Nutrition Science, belongs to the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering and has expanded rapidly over the last few years. She herself has recently left the driver seat to a new head of division, Rikard Landberg.<br /><br />“Now we will work for increased visibility, nationally and internationally, and further raise our status&quot;, says Ann-Sofie Sandberg.<br /><br />This year's prize winners also includes Chalmers’ Physics Professor Per-Olof Nilsson and an additional ten people with different professions such as governor, composer, director and organizer. The motivations will be given at the award ceremony on June 4, where the awardees will also receive a badge and a Poseidon statue.<br /><br />Read a longer portrait of Ann-Sofie Sandberg <a href="/sv/institutioner/bio/nyheter/Sidor/Utan-hållbar-människa-inget-hållbart-samhälle.aspx">here </a>(in Swedish only). <br /><br />More about Physics Professor Per-Olof Nilsson <a href="/en/departments/physics/news/Pages/Chalmers-Professor-awarded-by-the-City-of-Gothenburg.aspx">here</a>. <br /><br />Text: Mia Malmstedt<br />Photo: Johan Bodell<br /></p>Wed, 16 May 2018 10:00:00 +0200 in future scientists<p><b>​How do we get future natural scientists? By raising the interest of elementary school children! Maria Matson Dzebo, postdoc at Biology and Biological Engineering, believes this to be true and has engaged herself in the competition Teknikåttan.</b></p>​This year’s regional finals in Teknikåttan recently took place at Chalmers. In the event, students from the eighth grade in elementary school competed for a spot at the national final in Linköping in May (<a href="/sv/samverkan/skolsamverkan/Grundskolan/teknikattan/Sidor/Teknikåttan-2018.aspx">read more here </a>(only in Swedish)! <br /><br />One of the researchers who has dedicated their time and engagement in the competition is Maria Matson Dzebo.<br /><br />“It all started when I was at a conference this fall, and found out that Chalmers lacked a representative in Teknikåttan. I contacted the project manager and asked if I could be of assistance,” she says.<br />&quot;I think it’s important that Chalmers commit to make sure we’ll have future natural scientists. It is also part of what we as researchers are supposed to do; educate and disseminate knowledge, to students and towards the public.”<br /><br />Maria Matson Dzebo has been working in projects involving younger elementary school children earlier. The sooner, the better, she argues. Later, there’s a risk that natural sciences are seen as boring and difficult. But why is that?<br /><br />“I think it’s contagious. If you, as a parent, found natural sciences difficult, you might send that signal to your children… And then it spreads from child to child. When you’re a kid, you want to act the same way and like the same things as everybody else.”<br /><br />Targeting the eighth grade is absolutely right, she says. There is still some time left before the students have to make a choice for upper secondary school, but they have landed after getting their first grades two years earlier. They also have all the subjects of natural sciences on the schedule.<br /><br />Maria Matson Dzebo has been involved in the scientific group, where the competition’s questions are designed. Some contest elements are also purely technical; they’ve been tested in her kitchen to see what works. She has also served as a referee and may do so again in the national finals. If she gets the chance, she would like to be involved again next year.<br /><br />And what about the region finals?<br /><br />“The kids were nervous but seemed more relaxed after a while. They looked happy and like they were having fun. And the teachers gave some very positive feedback afterwards. I think the competition is important to them too; the students complete two of the tasks in school, before the competition. This year they constructed a ball thrower and a code where they could communicate with each other using flags only.”<br /><br />The competition took place at the conference hall Runan at Chalmers. This is also important, says Maria Matson Dzebo:<br /><br />“We want to show off our campus, show that Chalmers is not just a black hole that you pass when you’re in the neighborhood. And we want to show that we as researchers are quite ordinary people who think this is exciting; we want them to know that anyone can become a scientist.”<br /><br />Text: Mia Malmstedt<br />Photo: Martina Butorac<br />Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:00:00 +0200 visited Nordstan<p><b>Are we what we eat? That was the main question as the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering visited the stage in Nordstan during Gothenburg Science Festival. And it really is a popular subject.</b></p><img class="chalmersPosition-FloatRight" alt="BIO Researchers visited Nordstan" src="/SiteCollectionImages/Institutioner/Bio/Kollage.png" style="margin:5px" />​There were hardly any available seats during the twelve short lectures where the audience got to learn more about tomorrow's food, how new techniques and smarter fish processing can reduce food and nutrition waist, how our blood reveals what we have eaten and how and why we are affected by the food we eat.<br /><br />And in the Expert Bubble, visitors got to walk up to the researchers and ask all their questions about food, health, diet and allergies.<br /><br />The quiz was also very popular and the battle for the honor and vouchers for Feskarbröderna was tough and exciting!Wed, 25 Apr 2018 14:00:00 +0200 fish could prevent Parkinson’s disease<p><b>​A new study from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, shines more light on the link between consumption of fish and better long-term neurological health. Parvalbumin, a protein found in great quantities in several different fish species, has been shown to help prevent the formation of certain protein structures closely associated with Parkinson’s disease.</b></p>​Fish has long been considered a healthy food, linked to improved long-term cognitive health, but the reasons for this have been unclear. Omega-3 and -6, fatty acids commonly found in fish, are often assumed to be responsible, and are commonly marketed in this fashion. However, the scientific research regarding this topic has drawn mixed conclusions. Now, new research from Chalmers has shown that the protein parvalbumin, which is very common in many fish species, may be contributing to this effect.<br /><br />One of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease is amyloid formation of a particular human protein, called alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is even sometimes referred to as the ‘Parkinson’s protein’. <br />What the Chalmers researchers have now discovered, is that parvalbumin can form amyloid structures that bind together with the alpha-synuclein protein. Parvalbumin effectively ‘scavenges’ the alpha-synuclein proteins, using them for its own purposes, thus preventing them from forming their own potentially harmful amyloids later on. <br /><br />“Parvalbumin collects up the ‘Parkinson’s protein’ and actually prevents it from aggregating, simply by aggregating itself first,” explains Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, Professor and Head of the Chemical Biology division at Chalmers, and lead author on the study. <br /><br />With the parvalbumin protein so highly abundant in certain fish species, increasing the amount of fish in our diet might be a simple way to fight off Parkinson’s disease. Herring, cod, carp, and redfish, including sockeye salmon and red snapper, have particularly high levels of parvalbumin, but it is common in many other fish species too. The levels of parvalbumin can also vary greatly throughout the year.<br /><br />“Fish is normally a lot more nutritious at the end of the summer, because of increased metabolic activity. Levels of parvalbumin are much higher in fish after they have had a lot of sun, so it could be worthwhile increasing consumption during autumn,” says Nathalie Scheers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and researcher on the study. It was Nathalie who first had the inspiration to investigate parvalbumin more closely, after a previous study she did looking at biomarkers for fish consumption. <br /><br />Other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Huntington’s disease, are also caused by certain amyloid structures interfering in the brain. The team is therefore keen to research this topic further, to see if the discovery relating to Parkinson’s disease could have implications for other neurodegenerative disorders as well. Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede stresses the importance of finding ways to combat these neurological conditions in the future: <br /><br />“These diseases come with age, and people are living longer and longer. There’s going to be an explosion of these diseases in the future – and the scary part is that we currently have no cures. So we need to follow up on anything that looks promising.” <br /><br />A follow up study, looking at parvalbumin from another angle, is indeed planned for this autumn. Nathalie Scheers, together with Professor Ingrid Undeland, also of Chalmers, will investigate parvalbumin from herring, and its transport in human tissues. <br /><br />“It will be very interesting to study how parvalbumin distributes within human tissues in more depth. There could be some really exciting results.” <br /><br /><strong>More About: Fish and Better Neurological Health</strong><br />The link between higher consumption of fish and better long-term health for the brain has been long established. There is correlation between certain diets and decreased rates of Parkinson’s disease – as well as other neurodegenerative conditions. “Among those who follow a Mediterranean diet, with more fish, one sees lower rates of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” says Tony Werner, a PhD student in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and lead researcher on the study. This has also been observed in Japan, where seafood forms a central part of the diet. The team is careful to note that no definite links can be established at this point, however. <br /><br /><strong>More About: Amyloids and Aggregation</strong><br />Proteins are long chains of amino acids that fold into specific structures to carry out their function. But sometimes, proteins can fold incorrectly, and get tangled up with other proteins, a process known as aggregation.As these misfolded proteins aggregate together, they create long fibrous structures known as amyloids. Amyloids are not necessarily a bad thing, but can be responsible for various diseases. Some of them can interfere with neurons in the brain, killing those cells, and causing a variety of neurodegenerative conditions.<br /><br /><strong>More About: The Study</strong><br />The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.<br /><a href="">Abundant fish protein inhibits α-synuclein amyloid formation</a><br /><br />Text: Joshua Worth<br />Photo: Johan BodellMon, 23 Apr 2018 07:00:00 +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 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