My research involves the study of a process in bacteria that is essential for their survival: cell division, and the translation of this research to the identification of new ways to kill bacteria by targeting this essential process. Major focus areas include:
Cell Division: the mechanism and its control
My primary research interest is how bacterial cells divide and how they regulate this process. Cell division is essential for survival, colonisation and infection. What are the cues that signal cells to divide at the right place and at the right time? How do cells ensure that when division occurs to produce two newborn cells, each one receives the correct amount of DNA? The answers to these questions are essential to understand how organisms reproduce and grow. But they remain unknown. Research in Liz’s laboratory addresses these questions in pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria to gain an understanding of the regulation of this vital process both in culture and in the host during infection to facilitate the design of novel therapeutics that target it.
Visualisation of cell division in bacteria has only been possible in the last 20 years, much more recent than observation of the mitotic spindle in eukaryotes. My research employs advanced fluorescence microscope techniques, including super resolution microscopy (e.g. Strauss et al. 2012. PLoS Biology 10(9): e1001389. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001389).
Cell Division: A Goldmine for Antibacterial Targets
Cell division is an attractive target for the development of new antibacterials, and there has been much activity in this area in the last 10-15 years in both academia and industry. I have worked with industry toward this goal and am involved in several in-house drug discovery projects in ithree. I am also taking a protein chemistry approach to assess the targetability of essential protein-protein interactions in problematic Gram-postiive and Gram-negative pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus and Acinetobacter species.
Honey as an antibacterial: return of an ancient remedy
Honey has been used for hundreds of years to treat skin infections and other ailments. With the increasing difficulty in effective treatment of skin infections and chronic wounds due to antibiotic resistance, complex natural products with antimicrobial activity, such as honey, are now being investigated more intensively and rigorously as alternative treatments for these infections. Several studies have shown honey to have broad-spectrum antibacterial activity at concentrations present in honey dressings, and resistance to honey has not been attainable in the laboratory. Although approved honey dressings are readily available to health professionals, they remain under-utilized in the clinic. My laboratory has been applying rigorous science to examine the various properties of honey that provide these anti-infective properties as well as how honey works to kill bacterial cells. We have worked with industry in this endeavour and have concentrated so far on the New Zealand manuka honey.
Phone: +61 2 9514 4173