Multidisciplinary study finds way to examine biofilms with high efficiency
The never-ending fight against bacteria has taken a turn in humanity's favor with the announcement of a tool that could give the upper hand in drug research.
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has produced alarming headlines in recent years, with the prospect of commonly prescribed treatments becoming obsolete setting off alarm bells in the medical establishment.
More efficient ways of testing replacements are desperately needed, and a team from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has just found one.
In their paper, published in ACS Sensors, the scientists look at a microbial structure called biofilms - bacterial cells that band together into a slimy matrix.
These are advantageous for bacteria, even giving resistance to conventional antibiotics. With properties like these, biofilms can be hazardous when they contaminate environments and industries; everything from tainting food production to clogging sewage treatment pipes. Biofilms can also become lethal if they make their way into medical facilities.
Understanding how biofilms are formed is key to finding ways to defeat them, and this study brought together OIST scientists from backgrounds in biotechnology, nanoengineering and software programming to tackle it.
The team focused on biofilm assembly kinetics - the biochemical reactions that allow bacteria to produce their linked matrix structure. Gathering intelligence on how these reactions function can tell a lot about what drugs and chemicals can be used to counteract them.
No tools were available to the team that would allow them to monitor biofilm growth with the frequency they needed to have a clear understanding of it. So, they modified an existing tool to their own design.
Dr. Nikhil Bhalla, working in OIST's Micro/Bio/Nanofluidics Unit led by Prof. Amy Shen took to the nanoscale to find a solution: "We created little chips with tiny structures for E. coli to grow on," he said. "They are covered in mushroom shaped nano-structures with a stem of silicon dioxide and a cap of gold."
Now all the team had to do was find some bacteria to work with. Reaching out to OIST's Structural Cellular Biology Unit, the team were helped by Dr Bill Söderström, who supplied stocks of E. coli on the surface of nanomushroom chips for the team to study.
When these nanomushrooms are subject to a targeted beam of light, they absorb it by Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR). By measuring the difference between light wavelengths entering and exiting the chip, the scientists could make observations of the bacteria growing around the mushroom structures without disturbing their test subjects and affecting their results.
"This is the first time we have used this sensing technique to study bacterial cells," said Dr. Riccardo Funari, the team's resident biotechnologist, "but the problem we found was we couldn't monitor it in real time."
Getting a constant stream of data from their LSPR setup was possible, but required a whole new set of software to make it functional. Fortunately, research technician Kang-yu Chu was on hand to lend his programming expertise to the problem.
"We made an automatic measuring program with instant analysis based on existing software, which let us process the data with one click. It greatly reduced the manual work involved and let us correct any problems with the experiment as they happen," said Kang-yu.
Now these three disciplines have combined to make a benchtop tool that can be used in virtually any laboratory, and there are plans to miniaturize the technology into a portable device that could be used in a huge array of biosensing applications.
"Studies on clinically relevant microorganisms are coming next," said Dr. Funari, "and we're really excited about the applications. This could be a great tool for testing future drugs on lots of different kinds of bacteria." For now at least, humans are taking the lead in the bacterial battle.
Kaoru Natori | EurekAlert!
New technique to determine protein structures may solve biomedical puzzles
12.12.2019 | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
NTU Singapore scientists convert plastics into useful chemicals using su
12.12.2019 | Nanyang Technological University
More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the publication of James Clerk Maxwell's "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" (1865). What would our lives be without this publication?
It is difficult to imagine, as this treatise revolutionized our fundamental understanding of electric fields, magnetic fields, and light. The twenty original...
In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.
Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...
The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.
Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...
Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...
Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2019 | Life Sciences