Thursday, September 29, 2005

Healing agents from the soil of Pulau Ubin

Antitumour chemotherapeutic agents from the soil of Pulau Ubin
Source: National University of Singapore

We heard of meliodosis -- caused by bacteria in the soil which enters the body through cuts or wounds – a disease which could be deadly. But the soil also yields "healing" bacteria. A team of NUS researchers started searching for these bacteria in 1996. Led by Associate Professor Nga Been Hen, Department of Microbiology the team scoured the forest floor of Pulau Ubin, an island off Singapore -- in search of soil containing bacteria belonging to the actinomycete group which produces antitumour chemotherapeutic agents.

After years of painstaking research, the team has managed to isolate a new strain from the soil. This is the first time researchers in Southeast Asia had literally "unearthed" a new strain of actinomycete that produces antitumour polyketide compounds. There are not many such recorded discoveries in Asia and among these are those in Japan and Korea. The team has recently applied for a patent for this new strain.

Actinomycete strains are able to synthesise antitumour compounds belonging to aromatic polyketides. These are characterised by their chemical structure of four "aromatic" rings, with a sugar group attached to one of the rings. They are capable of intercalating into DNA and thus inhibiting the synthesis of macromolecules.

Associate Professor Nga recalled: "Four of us went to Pulau Ubin. We needed to look for places where the soil is pristine and not disturbed. We brought with us sterilised bottles and spatulas. We scraped one to three centimetres of the soil below the surface of leaf litter and scooped this into the bottles.

"We were so absorbed in our work that we didn't even know that mosquitoes were out in full force and attacking us until we felt the itch. I slapped on the itch and was surprised to find that I had actually killed three mosquitoes at one go!"

Bringing the soil back to the lab was the first step. The team needed to make sure that the bacteria in the soil were what they were looking for – the types which can stop tumours in their track.


One gramme of soil was mixed with three millilitres of sterile water and shaken gently for three minutes. Small quantity of this mixture was inoculated onto a thin layer of agar in a Petri dish. The culture was left to grow for four days at 28 degrees Centigrade.

The bacteria grew as tiny spots on the agar. The antibiotic component, daunorubicin in the bacteria is identifiable as it is red in colour. They were then screened for antimicrobial activity against Bacillus subtilis.

"When we found that the actinomycetes were actually working to inhibit the growth of the Bacillus, we know we were on the right track," said Associate Professor Nga.

The chromosomal DNA of the actinomycete strains were further screened for the presence of the ketoacyl synthase gene (an early and essential gene responsible for the biosynthesis of the aromatic polyketide compounds).

The team proceeded to build a cosmid genomic library – a collection of clones made from the strain's genomic DNA fragments (20-25 kilobases). 2,000 clones were characterised. They were analysed for containing daunorubicin-resistance genes (a gene present in the daunorubicin gene cluster) by employing the PCR technique using appropriate primers.

The polyketide compounds produced by this strain have the potential to be made into antitumour drugs.

Thanks for the alert from Marcus Tay

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Filming for Hindi movie "Krrish" begins in Singapore

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia
15 September 2005

Top Indian director Rakesh Roshan is in town to produce 'Krrish', the sequel to his successful award-winning science fiction flick "Koi Mil Gaya".

It is the first movie to be shot under the Singapore Tourism Board's 'Film in Singapore' Scheme.

The filming sessions is expected to take more than 60 gruelling days.

The filming locations include arts centre the Esplanade, the Zoo, Pulau Ubin island and even the East Coast Parkway for a sequence on a major highway.

Read full article here.

Related Ubin Stories:
Bollywood film Krrish to showcase Singapore
Bollywood movie filmed on Ubin

Other links:
[Singapore Tourism Board Press Release] Bollywood Celebrities Kick Start Filming of Krrish in Singapore with Blessing Ceremony

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Going off the cliff

Straits Times: Sept 13, 2005
[PDF version]

Professional cliff diver Joey Zuber performed a series of somersaults and twists off the disused Kekek Quarry (see map below) in Pulau Ubin yesterday. The 28-year-old Australian was in Singapore for a three-day trip to find a suitable platform here to promote the sport on a competitive level.

There are plans to bring six to eight of the world's best cliff divers here next year.

Mr Zuber had visited Little Guilin in Bukit Batok, but found the Ubin quarry more suitable for its water depth and its surroundings.

With 20 years of diving experience, he is quick to stress the need for ample training in amateur diving before attempting cliff diving.

The 2002 champion of the Red Bull World Cliff Diving Championship in Hawaii added: 'Singapore's infrastructure and diversity make it an ideal place to introduce a cool sport like cliff diving to Asia.'

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pulau Ubin hosts cliff-diving demonstration to promote sport

Channel NewsAsia: Sep 12, 2005
[Source: CNA Website]

Singapore hosted its first-ever cliff-dive at Pulau Ubin on Monday.

It's a leap of faith definitely not for the faint-hearted!

Athletes can be travelling at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour when they hit the water.

Cliff-diving champion Joey Zuber was at hand to explain what the sport is all about, and to share his experience with thrill lovers.

The event is part of a demonstration drive to create awareness of the sport of cliff-diving in Singapore. - CNA/de

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cartoon Map of Sensory Trail

Download full size map

For those interested in exploring the sensory trail on their own, NParks has now released a map of the sensory trail. However, for those who would still prefer a guided tour around the trail, there is always the tour by trained guides which will cease to be free beginning January 1, 2006.

For more information, read:
Sensory Trail guided walks no longer free

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sensory Trail guided walks no longer free

As of Jan 2006, NParks guided walks at the Pulau Ubin Sensory Trail will no longer be free. Charges will be $60 per group of maximum 15 persons.

Currently guided walks are provided free by trained guides. Beginning 1st January 2006, free guided walks for the Sensory Trail will cease.

From the information on the NParks website, it seems unclear if groups of less than 10 will be able to enjoy these guided walks and at what rates.

Still, the sensory trail remains free for individual exploration and all the plants are well labelled with sufficient details and even have braille letters as the park was originally designed for the visually handicapped.

For more information, see:
NParks website