Week in Review: Size Doesn’t Matter

UNC-TV Science Week In Review

UNC-TV Science Week in Review: June 6, 2013
Size Doesn’t Matter

The role of science is often to solve problems we encounter in our everyday world. Whether these issues involve microbes too small to see with the naked eye or parts of the Earth too large to see from one spot, scientists observe, experiment and observe again until we can find solutions. This week, North Carolina made progress on problems of many sizes.

Resisting Antibiotic Resistance

Starting small, Duke University announced on June third that a team of its researchers will co-lead a national project to combat strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The National Institutes of Health awarded Duke an initial grant of $2 million to coordinate and carry out research dedicated to combat such bacteria as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli.

As we use antibiotics to treat infections, most of the bacteria are effectively killed. Some strains, however, are able to adapt to these antibiotics over time and it is these strains that researchers at Duke and the University of California at San Francisco will study. The team’s goals are to find ways to effectively treat, identify and prevent these resistant strains. 

Resistant bacteria have been in the spotlight in the triangle since pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to create antibiotics better able to deal with drug resistant bacteria in May. GSK will receive $40 million in funding from DHHS over the next 18 months.

More Cancer Screenings

Bumping up in size from cells to body systems, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and detecting it early greatly improves chances for survival. However, certain populations, particularly Latinos are not getting many screenings.

Therefore, the American Cancer Society, awarded a Dan Reuland, M.D., MPH a $1.7 million grant to study ways to convince more people to get screenings. Reuland will study the use of multimedia presentations and other measures in clinics for five years to see what works best to get more people screened for colorectal cancer.

We Can See the Forest for the Trees

Where we get our energy is a large and growing problem around the globe. It only seems fitting that researchers at the North Carolina Biofuels Center are looking at large and growing objects for a solution. Trees. The Biofuels Center recently published the findings from its woody biomass assessment – a two-year-long study focused on determining the availability of wood for fuels and where the best places in the state are for setting up woody biomass refineries.

They found that trees cover more than half the state and especially in the rural counties, opportunities exist to create renewable energy and new industry with this abundant natural resource.

- Daniel Lane

Daniel Lane covers science, medicine and the environment as a reporter/writer. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in medical and science journalism at UNC - Chapel Hill.