Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Studies of Cell Traits Nets Big Award for Researcher

26.06.2008
University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemist Doug Weibel may not be able to bend or shape cells any way he wants to - yet.

However, Weibel's efforts to uncover the molecular choreography within the cell that governs their physical, chemical and physiological attributes - including shape, behavior and development - have earned the young scientist a prestigious Searle Scholar Award. The $300,000 award over three years was last conferred on a UW-Madison faculty member in 1997 when pharmacy professor Ben Shen was recognized.

The award will support Weibel's exploration of some of the fundamental mysteries of bacterial cells, work that promises to make them more amenable for study and manipulation in the interest of such things as the development of biofuels and new antibiotics.

"We work specifically on bacteria," says Weibel, who joined the UW-Madison faculty in 2006. "One of the things we're really interested in is how bacteria sense their environment. For example, how can a cell sense if it's on a surface or in a liquid?"

... more about:
»Cell »Weibel »bacterial

How cells respond to their environments, Weibel explains, is a complex mix of physical and chemical variables, and in the case of bacteria, those variables may vary from organism to organism. One critical problem Weibel's group is addressing is why it is so difficult to tame most bacteria, making it impossible for many important microorganisms to be studied in the lab.

It is widely believed that more than 99 percent of the world's microbes can't be isolated and cultured using current methods. Weibel's approach to the problem, which is interdisciplinary in the extreme and weaves chemistry, material science and engineering into the equation, involves developing new polymer structures that mimic the natural habitats of different classes of bacteria. By designing microenvironments in tune with different kinds of bacteria, it may be possible to bring them within reach of science, affording better opportunities to thwart pathogenic microbes or tame those that might be useful for converting biomass to sugars that can be used in biofuels.

Another thrust of the Weibel lab is helping to figure out why bacteria behave as they do. For example, is there such a thing as collective behavior in bacteria?

"We're very interested in the question of how does collective behavior in populations of bacteria arise," Weibel says. "Emerging behavior is a property of a system you can't predict from the sum of the individual components. The swarming of bacterial cells on surfaces is a fascinating example of what might be considered emergent or multicellular behavior."

Such issues are important, notes Weibel, as swarming behavior in bacteria can switch on genes that transform benign bacterial cells into pathogens (see animation of swarming behavior at http://www.news.wisc.edu/video/bact/052908_SwarmingEdge/).

For instance, the bacterial films that form on catheters and other biomedical devices and expose patients to serious infection arise from a bacterium's tendency to live and migrate collectively.

Weibel is also attempting to develop imaging techniques that will help science resolve how the internal scaffolding of cells, the cytoskeleton, is organized in space and time. That, in turn, could lead to new methods to alter the shape of cells.

"In bacteria, cell shape is typically conserved. A rod-shaped cell always produces a rod-shaped offspring and a sphere always produces spheres," according to Weibel. "But it's possible to turn a rod-shaped bacterium into a cube or a right-handed coil. Or you can take a rod and engineer a kink in it. We want to understand how shape is connected to the underlying cytoskeleton and how this system controls the spatial and temporal location of other components in the cell."

Teasing out those secrets, he says, could help scientists develop novel antibiotics at a time when there is a critical need to replenish the antimicrobial armamentarium in response to germs that have evolved resistance to conventional antibiotics.

Terry Devitt | newswise
Further information:
http://www.news.wisc.edu/video/bact/052908_SwarmingEdge/
http://www.biochem.wisc.edu

Further reports about: Cell Weibel bacterial

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>