Microbial biofilms, Applied microbiology & Synthetic Biology
Progression of oral disease is often dependent upon the accumulation of oral plaque, a prime example of a bacterial biofilm. Biofilms are also important in several medical conditions, presenting a barrier to antibiotic treatment and contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance traits. Methods to circumvent this recalcitrance to treatment are being studied, with the use of ultrasound as an intervention one example.
We are also interested in establishing the mechanisms involved in formation and progression of both mono- and mixed species oral biofilms, with a specific focus on glycobiology of these organisms. Our focus is chiefly on biofilms of oral pathogens such as P. gingivalis and Tannerella forsythia that are major contributors to periodontitis, a disease affecting 200 million people worldwide that is associated with tooth loss and is increasingly considered as a risk factor for systemic diseases such as atherosclerosis. To enable these studies we occupy a suite of laboratories equipped with bacterial culture, molecular analysis and microscopy (including fluorescence microscopy and TEM) facilities in the dental school. We also collaborate widely with the Dept of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Dr John Rafferty) on the structural biology of bacterial virulence enzymes.
Applied Microbiology & SynBio
In further work, with colleagues in the Department of Biomedical Science and the Kroto Institute we are investigating the use of novel compounds to treat biofilm infections and periodontal pathogens. A number of 'bug-binding' polymer have been developed that have potential applications in wound dressings and bacterial detection.
In addition the group is working on a number of Synthetic Biology projects, including developing a number of bacterially derived chassis for the production of biomedically important proteins in E. coli for applications in Tissue engineering and biomedicine. This work is a collaboration with colleagues in Chemical and Biological Engineering (Dr Caroline Evans, and Prof P Wright at Newcastle, Dr Gillian Fraser in Cambridge and in collaboration with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotech).