Posts about Michigan

Potential Antibiotic Alternative to Treat Infection Without Resistance

Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a potential alternative to conventional antibiotics that could fight infection with a reduced risk of antibiotic resistance. Sadly Michigan is another school that is allowing work of those paid for by the citizens of Michigan to be lock away, only due to the wishes of an outdated journal business model instead of supporting open science. The Big Ten seems much more interested in athletic riches than in promoting science. The Big Ten should be ashamed of such anti knowledge behavior and require open science for their schools if they indeed value knowledge.

By using high-throughput screening of a library of small molecules, the team identified a class of compounds that significantly reduced the spread and severity of group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria in mice. Their work suggests that the compounds might have therapeutic value in the treatment of strep and similar infections in humans.

“The widespread occurrence of antibiotic resistance among human pathogens is a major public health problem,” said David Ginsburg, a faculty member at LSI, a professor of internal medicine, human genetics, and pediatrics at the U-M Medical School and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Ginsburg led a team that included Scott Larsen, research professor of medicinal chemistry and co-director of the Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core at U-M’s College of Pharmacy, and Hongmin Sun, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Work on this project is continuing at U-M and the University of Missouri, including the preparation of new compounds with improved potency and the filing of patents, Larsen said. Large research schools are also very interested in patents. That is ok, though seems to cloud the pursuit of knowledge too often when too large a focus is on dollars at many schools. But, it seems to put the schools primary focus on dollars; education seems to start to be a minor activity at some of these large schools.

Current antibiotics interfere with critical biological processes in the pathogen to kill it or stop its growth. But at the same time, stronger strains of the harmful bacteria can sometimes resist the treatment and flourish.

An alternate approach is to suppress the virulence of the infection but still allow the bacteria to grow, which means there is no strong selection for strains that are resistant to antibiotics. In a similar experiment at Harvard University, an anti-virulence strategy was successful in protecting mice from cholera.

About 700 million people have symptomatic group A Streptococcus infections around the world each year, and the infection can be fatal. Most doctors prescribe penicillin. The newly identified compounds could work with conventional antibiotics and result in more effective treatment.

Related: full press releaseWhat Happens If the Overuse of Antibiotics Leads to Them No Longer Working?Norway Reduces Infections by Reducing Antibiotic UseNew Family of Antibacterial Agents DiscoveredMany Antibacterial Products May Do More Harm Than GoodAnti-microbial Paint

Waste Treatment Plants Result in Super Bacteria

Multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria has emerged as one of the top public health issues worldwide in the last few decades as the overuse of antibiotics and other factors have caused bacteria to become resistant to common drugs. Chuanwu Xi‘s group chose to study Acinetobacter because it is a growing cause of hospital-acquired infections and because of its ability to acquire antibiotic resistance.

Xi said the problem isn’t that treatment plants don’t do a good job of cleaning the water—it’s that they simply aren’t equipped to remove all antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals entering the treatment plants.

The treatment process is fertile ground for the creation of superbugs because it encourages bacteria to grow and break down the organic matter. However, the good bacteria grow and replicate along with the bad. In the confined space, bacteria share resistant genetic materials, and remaining antibiotics and other stressors may select multi-drug resistant bacteria.

While scientists learn more about so-called superbugs, patients can do their part by not insisting on antibiotics for ailments that antibiotics don’t treat, such as a common cold or the flu, Xi said. Also, instead of flushing unused drugs, they should be saved and disposed of at designated collection sites so they don’t enter the sewer system.

The next step, said Xi, is to see how far downstream the superbugs survive and try to understand the link between aquatic and human superbugs. This study did not look past 100 yards.

Xi’s colleagues include visiting scholar Yongli Zhang; Carl Marrs, associate professor of public health; and Carl Simon, professor of mathematics.

Xi and colleagues found that while the total number of bacteria left in the final discharge effluent declined dramatically after treatment, the remaining bacteria was significantly more likely to resist multiple antibiotics than bacteria in water samples upstream. Some strains resisted as many as seven of eight antibiotics tested. The bacteria in samples taken 100 yards downstream also were more likely to resist multiple drugs than bacteria upstream.

Full press release

Related: How Bleach Kills BacteriaSuperbugs, Deadly Bacteria Take HoldBacteria Race Ahead of DrugsNew Family of Antibacterial Agents Discovered

Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

photo of Basilosaurus fossil

The skeleton is 18 meters (50 feet) long and was found in Wadi Hitan in the Western Sahara of Egypt. The first Basilosaurus fossil was found in 1905 but no full skeleton has been discovered until now.

The new skeleton of Basilosaurus will be shipped to Michigan for preparation and preservation, University of Michigan paleontologist Philip D. Gingerich said. It then will be replicated in a casting material suitable for reconstruction and exhibition of the complete skeleton. The original fossil bones and a complete cast will be returned to Egypt for exhibition in public museums in Cairo and in the Wadi Hitan visitors center. Gingerich also hopes that a complete cast can be mounted in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum.

The fossil whales of Wadi Hitan were first mapped in the 1980s and 1990s during expeditions led by Gingerich, a professor at the U-M Museum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences. The 1989 team discovered that Basilosaurus still retained tiny, useless legs, feet, and toes representing hind legs that were lost at a later stage of whale evolution. No skeleton was collected at the time because of the remote location of Wadi Hitan and because of the large size of the whale skeletons.

Wadi Hitan is a remote valley in which hundreds of fossil whale skeletons are being exposed by the wind. They lie trapped in a sandstone formation that represents an ancient sea bed. “Here the wind sculpts the sand into spectacular shapes, which give the valley an unusual beauty in addition to its richness in fossils,” Gingerich said.

Sea-living animals found in the Wadi Hitan desert include five species of whales, including the Dorudon atrox, presently exhibited in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum. There are also three species of sea cows (Sirenia), two crocodiles, several turtles, and a sea snake, in addition to a large number of fossilized sharks and bony fishes.

Full press release, April 2005. Photo via: Whale Found in Egypt Desert

Related: Stromerius nidensis, new archaeocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the upper Eocene Qasr el-Sagha Formation, Fayum, EgyptGiant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in MexicoOver 100 Dinosaur Eggs DiscoveredNigersaurus

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Challenge Again

photo of UMichigan's Solar Car

U-M wins North American Solar Challenge for the fifth time

The University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team won the North American Solar Challenge, crossing the finish line in Alberta, Canada on Tuesday after more than 50 hours of racing over nine days.

The car averaged around 45 mph and led from the first day, besting 15 university teams that raced the 2,400-mile course from Plano, Texas to Calgary. Continuum finished about 10 hours before the second place team.

The North American Solar Challenge normally takes place every other year in the same year as the world race, but in 2007 its previous sponsor backed out. The race’s future was in question until Toyota took over the sponsorship.

Related: Eco-Vehicle Student CompetitionTeam blogHonda EngineeringMiddle School Students in Solar Car CompetitionUW- Madison Wins 4th Concrete Canoe Competition

6 Inch Bat Plane

image of bat plane

A six-inch robotic spy plane modeled after a bat would gather data from sights, sounds and smells in urban combat zones and transmit information back to a soldier in real time.

That’s the Army’s concept, and it has awarded the University of Michigan College of Engineering a five-year, $10-million grant to help make it happen. The grant establishes the U-M Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology, called COM-BAT for short. The grant includes an option to renew for an additional five years and $12.5 million.

U-M researchers will focus on the microelectronics. They will develop sensors, communication tools and batteries for this micro-aerial vehicle that’s been dubbed “the bat.” Engineers envision tiny cameras for stereo vision, an array of mini microphones that could home in on sounds from different directions, and small detectors for nuclear radiation and poisonous gases.

Low-power miniaturized radar and a very sensitive navigation system would help the bat find its way at night. Energy scavenging from solar, wind, vibration and other sources would recharge the bat’s lithium battery. The aircraft would use radio to send signals back to troops.

“These are all concepts, and many of them are the next generation of devices we have already developed. We’re trying to push the edge of our technologies to achieve functionality that was not possible before,” said Kamal Sarabandi, the COM-BAT director and a professor in the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

COM-BAT also involves the University of California at Berkeley and the University of New Mexico. It is one of four centers the Army launched as a collaborative effort among industry, academia and the Army Research Laboratory to work toward this vision of a small, robotic aircraft that could sense and communicate. Each of the four centers is charged with developing a different subsystem of the bat, a self-directed sensor inspired by the real thing.
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