News : Congratulations to the Poster Prize winners at Biofilms 8!

17 August 2018

Earlier this year Journal of Medical Microbiology awarded three prizes for the best three posters at the Biofilms8 conference.

This year's winners and the titles of their posters were:

Cindy Dreier “Host proteins determine MRSA biofilm structure and integrity”; Rodrigo Gutierrez Jauregui “Ectopic supply of IL-1beta promotes biofilm growth of Staphyloccocus aureus on pre-colonized implants in vivo”; and Annegrete Visnapuu “Studying ancient mechanism to synthesize novel anti-biofilm drugs”.   

We caught up with Cindy and Rodrigo after the conference to ask them some questions about their research.

Cindy Dreier

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by nature and the deeper understanding of the world, doing school project exploring the forces behind natural phenomenon’s, understanding the solar system, etc. That curiosity has driven me throughout my school years, affecting my educational choices from primary school to university. At university, I chose to study nanoscience, as it provided me with a broad and interdisciplinary scientific background, enabling me to tackle questions using many different approaches. My educational journey to become a scientist has thus entirely been based on my inherent interest and passion for understanding the world we live in, with the hope that someday I could contribute to this understanding, push the limits of science and help make the world a better place. 

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?

My PhD project focuses on the use of iron oxide nanoparticles in the development of a biofilm specific drug delivery system for implant associated infections. The main work of my PhD is thus the development and optimization of this nanoparticle system. I find this work very exciting, as you have to be creative, bring in technologies from different disciplines, and see new opportunities in order to develop something better and more effective than the current treatment options. The greatest motivational factor for me is that, if I succeed, my system will have the potential to overcome the current biofilm treatment limitations and thus help patients with an otherwise life-threatening condition. 

How would you explain your poster to a child under 10?

The work presented on my poster concerns biomedical implant associated infections, called biofilms, and how we as scientists study these biofilms and try to develop new and more effective treatment options. Currently biomedical implant related biofilm infections are untreatable and the only survival option is removal of the implant from the patient. As the implant often serve a life prolonging or disability-reducing role, implant removal cause patient pain, a decreased quality of life and sometimes a reduced life span. In order to understand biofilms and find new and effective treatment options, scientist study biofilms in the lab (in vitro). We know that the conditions under which we study biofilms in the lab also affect the properties and response to treatment that we observe. Yet most scientist study biofilms in unnatural laboratory conditions, not reflecting the real life infection situation. My presented work investigated if adding human synovial fluid to the biofilm growth of MRSA would help mimic a real infection situation and affect the biofilm properties. By adding synovial fluid, the biofilm biomass increased drastically while radically changing the biofilm structure. Specific human extracellular matrix proteins, from the synovial fluid, was incorporated into the biofilm matrix, affecting the biofilm initiation, surface attachment and structural integrity. My study thus underline how biofilm growth conditions change the biofilm properties and how addition of human components can help mimic a real infection situation. If we are ever to fully understand and conquer the deadly biofilm infections observed in patients, it is of key importance to improve and optimize lab-setups to reflect the conditions faced at the implant site. 

What would you be doing in your career if you weren't a scientist?

If I were not to be a scientist, I would probably be working with or playing music. Aside from science, music is another great passion of mine. I play classical clarinet, have been singing in a choir ever since I was a kid and do contemporary dance in my spare time. The range of emotions you can convey through music baffles me. Music is still a great part of my work as a scientist, as the right music can help you focus, relax, or de-stress. I thus use music actively in my work, helping me to become a better scientist.

Rodrigo Gutierrez Jauregui

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?

My mother was always my inspiration for becoming a scientist. She has been a successful physicist through all of my life and I always admired the way she always knew the answers to any question I might ask her.

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?

I am currently working on an in vivo model to test the effects that the immune system has on the development of bacterial biofilms on implants. It’s the fact that this research is so translatable to the clinics that has pushed me to work on it, because ultimately it is my goal to produce results relevant to medical practice.

How would you explain your poster to a child under 10?

I would probably say something like this: 

‘When people grow old or have accidents, doctors sometimes need to replace parts of them with prosthesis. This is somewhat expensive and probably painful so you do not want to have to do it often. Still, sometimes prosthesis will get infected by microbes that can’t be easily killed and then people have to take them out of the patients and replace with new ones. My work is about understanding how the prosthesis get infected and try to prevent it. For that I am placing my own infected implants inside the back of mice and using it to activate their immune system any way that I need it to be activated.

The microbes I use for this are made to shine so that I can follow the way the infection is growing by checking out how bright my implants become. Once that is done I check my implants and my mice to get more a better idea on where else my microbes could be found.

In the end I found out that when the immune system is very active the infection grows faster that when the immune system takes it easy. Now I need to figure out why it does that.’

What would you be doing in your career if you weren't a scientist?

Well I would probably have stayed in engineering, but the truth of it is that no other activity fulfils me like science does.

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