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Jekyll and Hyde Bacteria (Audio)

To study diseases, biologists often make models, for example, a rat with a disorder similar to Alzheimer's. With a good model, they can tinker with different variables and see if anything halts the disease, without the ethical limits of experimenting on actual humans. But scientists studying an especially nasty bacterium that tends to invade and breed out of control in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) kept hitting dead ends in their search for a good model.

Pigs and rats that were genetically engineered to have the same gene defect that causes CF in humans didn't develop the disease. The same bacteria growing in standard media on a petri dish acted nothing like they did when they were in the lungs of a CF patient.

Marvin Whiteley, director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease at the University of Texas at Austin, decided to try a different approach. This is his story.

UT Austin graduate student Justine Dees holds a petri dish with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa growing on it. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.
By the way, the College of Natural Sciences is celebrating the naming of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease with a free public lecture on Tuesday, March 29 titled "Reducing childhood mortality through vaccination: progress, challenges and the future" by Penny Heaton, Director of Vaccine Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The symposium will also provide highlights from current research by LaMontagne Center faculty at UT Austin, including scientists' work to improve antibiotics, develop an Ebola vaccine, understand the immune response to tumors, and a lot more. Click here for more details.

About Point of Discovery

Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS. Or listen on Stitcher. Questions or comments about this episode or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart.

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Friday, 27 January 2023

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