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Barry Marshall’s Lab Tour



Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall takes us on a quick tour of his labs.

Barry - This is The Marshall Centre and in here we’ve got the refurbished lab.  So this is an old building but the labs are all very, very new.  It’s very noisy because of the refrigerators.  This is the Ondek Laboratory which is housed inside the Universtiy of Western Australia facilities and, actually, there’s our chief scientist Alma Fulurija.

Alma, how are you?  What are you doing there?

Alma - I’m just setting up the Anoxomat and we’re going to flush some Helicobacter pylori plates that are in the incubator here.

Barry - OK.  So we’ve found…we keep each bottle of, ah, each set of helicobacter plates in its own bottle and then we can customise the atmosphere exactly for helicobacter.  And this incubator doesn’t have to be very fancy, it’s really just a warming oven because this part of the…this chamber here, is what we’re focusing on.

Alma - So we’re just attaching the air exchange to the system, and then we press the button, and it’s ready to go.

Barry - So how much carbon dioxide are we using on these these days?

Alma - This is 5% carbon dioxide and a little bit of hydrogen and nitrogen.

Barry -  Helicobacter likes to have a, kind of, a microaerophilic atmosphere, which is the kind of atmosphere you have at the junction between the blood stream and the lumen of the gut.  So the lumen’s anaerobic and the blood steam’s aerobic and H. Pylori can really only survive right in between the two, so that’s why we have to have that special atmosphere.

Alma - Can’t keep it out too long so I’ve got to get going.

Barry - We’ve got to keep them healthy, so let’s do it, just put it away now if you want to.  It’s blinking.  That’s important.  It’s a pity it doesn’t go ‘beep’ that’s all.

Alma - So you can see here we’ve got a few different cultures, different strains of Helicobacter…

Barry - And the thing about it is, it doesn’t matter if a lot of people are opening the doors because it’s not going to affect the individual bottles there.

Alma - No, that’s right, and it’s standardised at about 37 degrees so that’s pretty good.

Barry - And then over here, we’re doing a lot of molecular work so Alma would have, most days, these PCR Machines would be working, we might be testing hundreds of strains of helicobacter on some occasions because we’re testing people who took helicobacter as volunteers and then we have their strain of helicobacter coming back out at two weeks, two months, six months, one year, that kind of thing, to see what changes are happening in the bacteria when they infect a human.  So it’s all addressing this thing, how come some people are getting ulcers and some people have no symptoms at all.

And this is just a typical PCR machine and you can see the way you can amplify helicobacter DNA.  It heats up to 94 degrees for about 25 seconds and then it comes down to 55 degrees centigrade and then goes up to 68, stays at 68 and goes back down to 10.  So that cycle usually takes a minute or two and you do thirty cycles and you do a thousand, million amplifications of the DNA so this is really the machine, and the technology, that started the biotech revolution which was invented in 1983 by Nobel winner Kary Mullis.