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Scientists are using advanced technologies to better understand bacterial disease in humans. Dr. Sanchez, in particular,m approaches this from a chemist’s perspective.

She explains to listeners:

  • How exactly a biofilm behaves in the context of human disease.
  • Why eradicating the biofilm doesn’t solve the problem.
  • Why even cheese rind biofilms tell an interesting story about biofilm ecology.

Dr. Laura Sanchez is an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy with a courtesy appointment in Chemistry at The University of Illinois at Chicago. The Sanchez Lab studies how pathogens, cells, and microbes interact from a chemical perspective. Understanding this may help researchers better intercept pathogens early on and lead to disease detection such as ovarian cancer diagnosis at a stage when treatment yields more successful results.

The lab uses specialized mass spectrometry technology to interpret biofilm activity such that they gain a better understanding of its various stages and how to take advantage of any vulnerability. The interdisciplinary nature of this means they have contributors from many top-tier research facilities.

As they study how to better inhibit pathogens from potentially dangerous areas such as hospital settings and medical equipment, they’ve discovered a key behavior: they’ve found that trying to eradicate a biofilm simply turns up the virulent factor in the pathogen. When they studied diseased moths, they found that dispersing the biofilm only increased the virulence, killing the moths more quickly.

They can use the technology to study more than bacterial disease in humans:  Cheese rinds actually present a fascinating ecology, from the types of biofilms the same types of cheeses grow to a connection between what grows in the ocean and what salt brines do for cheese.

For more, see Dr. Sanchez’s lab page at

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