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From Dresses to Dressings

Wine dress

Bacteria have been developed that can turn wine into a fabric that fits like a second skin. Credit: Ray Scott

By Magdeline Lum

Bacteria have been developed that can turn wine into a fabric that fits like a second skin, and the sexual health of female cyclists can be affected by cycling.

Bacteria have been developed that can turn wine into a fabric that fits like a second skin.

A multidisciplinary approach at the University of Western Australia could lead to a new generation of medical dressings made from microbes.

Five years ago Bioalloy, which operates from the Faculty of Natural Agricultural Sciences laboratories at UWA, produced a dress made from fermented wine. It was the result of a collaboration between Bioalloy co-founder Gary Cass and artist Donna Franklin. The pair introduced Acetobacter bacteria to vats of wine where it converted the alcohol to cellulose microfibres.

“This microbial cellulose is chemically similar to cotton. Therefore the garments are made from microbial cotton. It is formed on the surface of the wine, almost as if the bacteria are trying to form a raft to flow on the wine,” Cass says.

“We have now perfected a culturing technique that will allow the bacteria to form a three-dimensional garment that will be seamless. It can also be formed to fit the wearer like a second skin.”

Research is underway to determine the feasibility of using the fermented fashion as medical bandages. The material would be able to keep wounds sterile from outside infections but still allow carers to see how the wound is healing under the dressing.

“One of the biggest advantages is that it doesn’t need any adhesives,” Cass says. “It covers the skin or wound so closely, as it shrinks it holds its own position on the body.”

Cycling Harms Female Sexual Health
New research from Yale University of Medicine has found that the sexual health of female cyclists can be affected by cycling.

A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine led by A/Prof Marsha Guess assessed the positions of the seats in relation to the handlebars of bikes belonging to 48 female cyclists, and the effect on saddle pressures and genital sensation. The women who were involved in the trial were not pregnant or premenopausal, and rode at least 16 km per week per month.

Aggressive cycling positions – where the handlebar is positioned much lower than the saddle – have been associated with erectile dysfunction and genital nerve issues in male cyclists. This new study has found that low handlebars correlate with increased perineum saddle pressures together with decreased anterior vaginal and left labial sensation. The researchers think that this may be because the riders may have a dominant side to which more pressure is applied while cycling.

The women involved in this study used their own bicycles that were set up to their own needs and specifications. This also meant that the type of seats included nosed and noseless saddles. The results suggest that when it came to low handlebars, women riding on bicycles with nosed seats experienced greater loss of genital sensation. However, the researchers concede that further research is needed to verify whether noseless saddles are of any benefit.

“Modifying bicycle set-up may help prevent genital nerve damage in female cyclists,” Guess notes. “Chronic insult to the genital nerves from increased saddle pressures could potentially result in sexual dysfunction.”

Female cyclists can take simple steps to protect their sexual health, said Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. “There are a myriad of factors affecting women’s sexual function. If women can minimize pressure application to the genital tissues merely by repositioning their handlebars higher, to increase sitting upright, and thereby maximize pressure application to the woman’s sit bones, then they are one step closer to maintaining their very important sexual health.”

The study did not explore in detail the different degrees of handlebar drop and saddle positions used and how these would be different for cyclists due to physiology and other factors like fitness, flexibility and cycling technique. The factors that are considered in this small study were cyclist age and saddle type.

All of the women involved in the study had normal sexual function. The researchers believe that the real-world conditions in the study produced results that are closer to real-world relationships between cyclists’ configuration and bicycle shape. Despite this, the researchers stress the need for further studies involving greater diversity of women over a longer period of time.