Jenny Lee

Post-Antibiotic Future

Jenny Lee
Post-Antibiotic Future

Post-Antibiotic Future: Could nanoscale embroidery revolutionise how we tackle the spread of disease and combat antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics have played a pivotal role in treating infections for over 70 years. But these drugs are becoming less effective which could potentially revert medicine back into the dark ages.

This growing resistance is one of the biggest public health threats, with scientists predicting over 80,000 deaths within the UK over the next 20 years. Common infections, surgical procedures and critical illnesses which all rely heavily on antibiotics will be under threat.

So what is being done about it? Key global leaders, scientists and pharmaceutical companies are currently working on collating data to better understand how bacteria becomes resistant to drugs, this data will help researchers to devise appropriate methodologies on tackling this issue.

However, one project in particular that has taken a novel approach to this critical issue is University of Huddersfield textile graduate Rhiannon Gregory.

Gregory traditionally trained as an embroiderer but has always had a strong interest in the sciences. In her second year she became involved with Leeds based organisation BioLeeds, an organisation that is interested in combining biology with design, working on various projects from protein cells to hydrogels. Through this partnership she went on to collaborate with Dr Lorna Dougan a Professor of Molecular and Nanoscale Physics, which led her to develop her project Nanoscale Embroidery.

The project examines the potential applications of utilising traditional embroidery stitches at a nanoscale level to question how this could influence current scientific research into antibiotic resistance. Scientists are currently researching into the use of Antimicrobial Peptides as an alternative to antibiotics.

In order to eradicate an infection, the bacteria’s membrane needs to be penetrated causing the bacteria to die. The Antimicrobial Peptide works by binding to and penetrating the bacteria membrane. However, scientists are struggling to get them to bind properly, this is where the use of traditional embroidery comes into play.

Gregory has combined her knowledge of traditional embroidery by applying various types of stitches onto the surface of the AntiMicrobial Peptide to identify which stitch will bind well to the bacteria.

Although this research is still in its infancy, the application of this is highly instrumental to how nanoscale embroidery could play a critical role in combatting the antibiotic resistance crisis, as well as changing the way in which infections are treated.