Science Interviews

Interview

Mon, 31st Jan 2011

Diamond News Update - Fighting antibiotic resistance

Sarah Boundy, Diamond Light Source

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Eroding Coastlines and Chemistry's Holy Grail - A look back at 2010

Meera – This is the Diamond Light Source Podcast and this month we’re looking back at some of the key developments and achievements at Diamond in 2010. So now let’s join Sarah Boundy from Diamond’s Communications Team to find out what happened at the facility towards the end of the year.

Sarah Boundy – It recently had a peper published in the journal of microbiology http://www.thenakedscientists.com/Home/Beamlines/MX/casestudies/PBP3.htmlwhich is looking at antibiotics. It reports on the molecular interaction between a protein from a common bacteria called Pseudomona Originosa, which can cause disease in animals and humans, and they’re looking at that and the 2 main antibiotics to combat it.

Meera – What aspect of these antibiotics were they actually looking into?

Sarah – Well they used Diamond to solve the structure of the protein bound to the antibiotic to get a picture of how the drugs work against the bacteria. The results allow them to look at the structure and see ways that the drugs may be modified and one of the problems with Pseudomona Originosa is that it can be particularly dangerous to those who are already ill, it can cause secondary infections, and so they are looking at how they can overcome the problem of drug resistance, when the bacteria becomes resistant to the antibiotic.

Meera – and I guess knowing this, they can develop new antibiotics or Diamond Lightsourcedrugs that can be more effective?

Sarah – Yes, from looking at the structure, they are able to look at ways they can aid the existing inhibitors and come up with new drugs that could be more effective.

Meera – The workings of antibiotics are always going to be crucial but now moving away from Life Sciences, the main thing about Diamond is that it looks into a whole range of scientific disciplines, including Engineering.

Sarah – That’s right. This one is most interesting because most of the Beamlines at Diamond are looking at samples of things that are absolutely tiny. They could literally fit on a pin head, but we’ve had a new development on our Jeep Beamline which is a Joint Engineering and Environmental Processes beamline.http://www.thenakedscientists.com/Home/Beamlines/I12.html It’s the only place in the UK where the internal stresses and strains of components up to 2 tonnes in weight and beyond a metre in length can be studied at the atomic scale.

Meera – So these are much bigger objects than have ever been analysed in the past at Diamond. So what kinds of objects are we talking about here – aircraft design and aircraft components?

Sarah – That’s right, it’s actually the external hutch of the JEEP Beamline, it can create molecular scale 3D images such as Aerospace and engineering components and the first users were actually from Rolls Royce. They were looking at a fan blade from one of their Trent 1000 engines. They were able to use JEEP to look inside the fan blade and measure all residual stresses without having to remove any of the metal and Rolls Royce routinely measure residual stress in their components and the JEEP Beamline is an alternative way for them to do this.

Meera – Now moving back down to small scale, the nano-scale in fact, you’ve had users on another Beamline as well?

Sarah – Yes, so we’ve now got 19 Beamlines in operation. Towards the end of last year we had first users on the Beamline for Advanced Dichroism Experiments, we call it BLADE for short. They were investigation multi-ferroics which are the class of materials which simultaneously exhibit magnetism and electricity.

Meera – So this obviously has to do with computing and computer chips as this is how data storage essentially works which is a crucial part of science and technology to be looking into at the moment.

Sarah – Yes, they were trying to understand the principles involved, with a view of being able to develop multi-ferroic materials which could work at room temperature. If this could be cracked, they could hold huge potential for new solutions for data storage.

Meera – Ok, so they were the first users on Beamlines that were developed last year, but you’ve also recently had ‘First Light’.

Sarah – So this is ‘First Light’ on I13, our X-Ray Imaging and Coherance Beamline, and it simply means that the Beamline Team were successful in getting synchrotron light from the main machine into the Optics Hutch of their Beamline. So now they’re busy finishing the beamline off and they hope to welcome first users later this year.

Meera – And what, essentially, is this Beamline? What makes it stand out and what kind of work will be done on it?

Sarah – So this one will allow researchers in a wide range of fields to create high quality 3D images of samples. So things such as engineering components, biomaterials, fossils, organic materials, and energy devices such as fuel cells, and it’s a bit different for Diamond because its experimental Hutch sits 250 metres away from the energy source, whereas most of the other ones are within the main building. We’re also developing it a little differently because we’ve entered into a collaboration with the University of Manchester.

Meera – So plenty of development and plenty of new research taking place but as well as research, another important thing that happens at Diamond is Outreach.

Sarah – That’s right, throughout the year we try to run lots of events for A-Level students and people interested in a career in Science and Engineering and in particular, towards the end of last year, we had a day called ‘Engineering your Future’. It was a careers day for A-level students who might like to take up a career in Engineering and they did lots of fun things like wiring up a mini RAF Pad, Programming a Space Robot to carry out manoeuvres, they had to build a prototype sturdy base for a wind turbine out at sea, so they did all kinds of things. We run that event on a yearly basis and we’ve got more of that kind of stuff coming up with our Particle Physics Master Class in March, as well as an Inside Diamond event especially for A-level students.

Meera – How can people keep up to date or aware of when these events are happening?

Sarah – The best thing to do is to look at our website. There’s plenty of information there about public events. We’ve actually got the next public Inside Diamond event which is coming up on Saturday 26th March, and registration can be made on our website which is www.diamond.ac.uk.

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