The breakthrough, published in the journal Nature Materials, could offer an easier way of detecting pathogenic bacteria outside of a clinical setting and could be particularly important for the developing world, where access to more sophisticated laboratory techniques is often limited.
The research was led by Professor Cameron Alexander, Head of the Division of Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering and EPSRC Leadership Fellow in the University's School of Pharmacy, building on work by PhD student Peter Magennis.
The image shows a) on the left hand side, aggregates of E coli labelled blue by in situ activated polymers, and b) on the right hand side E. coli clusters in suspension with bacterial-instructed polymers Schematics of the binding process are shown in the enlargement boxes of the image.
Credit: Professor Cameron Alexander The University of Nottingham UK
Professor Alexander said: "Essentially, we have hijacked some of the metabolic machinery which bacteria use to control their environment, and used it instead to grow polymers which bind strongly to the specific bacteria that produce them.
"The neat thing about this is that the functionality of the polymers grown on the surface of the bacteria is programmed by the cells so that they can recognise their own 'kind'. We used fluorescent labels to light up the polymers and were able to capture this labelling using a mobile phone camera, so in principle it could be possible to use these materials as point-of-care diagnostics for pathogenic bacteria."
The study has shown that the bacteria helped to synthesise polymers on their own surfaces which not only were different from those made by conventional methods, but which retained a form of 'structural memory' of that surface. This means in future it should be possible to make specific detection agents or additives for topical anti-infectives that target a number of harmful bacteria all by a common route.
"The initial focus of the research was to explore ways to use synthetic polymers to selectively target and bind the bacteria that cause dental cavities and periodontal diseases in order to facilitate their removal from the oral cavity," said Dr David Churchley, Principal Scientist, Oral Health Category Research and Development, GSK Consumer Healthcare. "As we continued our work, we saw that our research had broader implications and potential for a wider range of uses."
Rapidly identifying harmful bacteria at the heart of a serious medical or dental condition can be a difficult and costly task. The group's findings may even lead to new ways of treating bacterial infections. "These types of polymers may be designed to contain antibacterial functionalities so that they specifically bind to and kill bacterial pathogens," said Dr Klaus Winzer, a microbiologist at The University of Nottingham involved in the study. The selective binding of specific bacterial species and/or strains in current practice requires expensive 'cold-chain' reagents such as antibodies which often preclude using these processes outside of a hospital setting or in developing nations.
The new approach, termed 'bacterial-instructed synthesis', has the potential for use in the developing world, in the field or in less specialised laboratory settings.
Dr David Bradshaw, Principal Scientist, Oral Health Category Research and Development, GSK Consumer Healthcare, said: "The ingredients used to form the polymers are all easy to obtain, inexpensive and widely available. With the simplicity and accessibility of the chemistry, a number of diagnostic and other applications may be possible."
The study was funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) GSK Consumer Healthcare CASE studentship, and Professor Alexander's Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) Leadership Fellowship.
The paper will be accessible on the Nature Materials website (after the embargo has lifted) at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmat3949
Emma Thorne | Eurek Alert!
Cells migrate collectively by intermittent bursts of activity
30.09.2016 | Aalto University
The structure of the BinAB toxin revealed: one small step for Man, a major problem for mosquitoes!
30.09.2016 | CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Heavy construction machinery is the focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s latest advance in additive manufacturing research. With industry partners and university students, ORNL researchers are designing and producing the world’s first 3D printed excavator, a prototype that will leverage large-scale AM technologies and explore the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.
Increasing the size and speed of metal-based 3D printing techniques, using low-cost alloys like steel and aluminum, could create new industrial applications...
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
30.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
30.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.09.2016 | Earth Sciences
30.09.2016 | Life Sciences