The findings, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, could further our knowledge on how better to control and exploit bacteria in the future and will have implications for work in the emerging field of synthetic biology.
Professor Cameron Alexander, in the University's School of Pharmacy, led the study. He said: "This is an exciting and unexpected finding for us and comes as a result of research which was very much curiosity driven.
"It gives us more information about how to design artificial cells and to produce materials that will interact with microorganisms and control their behaviour, with a whole host of potential applications including drug discovery and energy production."
The study, which also involved scientists from the universities of Birmingham and Newcastle, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and The University of Nottingham.
As part of their research into the development of artificial cells and programmable bacterial coatings, the team found that polymers — long-chain molecules — that were able to arrange bacteria into clustered communities were, surprisingly, encouraging these bacteria to actively 'talk' to each other. This communication occurred by quorum sensing (QS), a way in which bacteria signal to each other, and coordinate response to environment. Quorum sensing also controls the way in which bacteria release certain types of molecules — for example as a defence mechanism or as tools for infection.
This finding opens up the possibility to influence microbial behaviour by controlling their ability to form productive communities. This can be exploited to prevent the release of toxins during the spread of infection or, alternatively, the production of useful molecules which can act as drugs, food source or biofuels.
The researchers used the bioluminescent marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi, as it allows them to easily track the changes in the bacteria's behaviour by measuring the pattern and intensity of the natural light produced by the organism.
Building on some intriguing initial results, the team of pharmacists, microbiologists chemists and computer scientists were also able to produce computational models predicting and explaining the behaviour of the microbial communities, which were crucial to deduct simple design principles for the programmable interaction of bacteria and polymers.
Overall, this research offers new understanding of bacterial community behaviour and will have implications in the design of materials as antimicrobials, for bioprocessing, biocomputation and, more generally, synthetic biology.
The paper, Bacteria clustering by polymers induces the expression of quorum sense controlled phenotypes, is available online on the Nature Chemistry website.
Emma Thorne | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences