By severely curtailing the effects of antibiotics, the formation of organized communities of bacterial cells known as biofilms can be deadly during surgeries and in urinary tract infections. Yale researchers have just come a lot closer to understanding how these biofilms develop, and potentially how to stop them.
Biofilms form when bacterial cells gather and develop structures that bond them in a gooey substance. This glue can protect the cells from the outside world and allow them to form complex quasi-organisms. Biofilms can be found almost everywhere, including unwashed shower stalls or the surfaces of lakes.
Because the protective shell can keep out potential treatments, biofilms are at their most dangerous when they invade human cells or form on sutures and catheters used in surgeries. In American hospitals alone, thousands of deaths are attributed to biofilm-related surgical site infections and urinary tract infections.
"Biofilms are a huge medical problem because they are something that makes bacterial infections very difficult to deal with," said Andre Levchenko, senior author of the study, which was published Oct. 5 in Nature Communications.
Fighting biofilms has been particularly difficult because it hasn't been well understood how bacteria cells make the transition from behaving individually to existing in collective structures. However, the researchers in the Levchenko lab, working with colleagues at the University of California-San Diego, recently found a key mechanism for biofilm formation that also provides a way to study this process in a controlled and reproducible way.
The investigators designed and built microfluidic devices and novel gels that housed uropathogenic E. coli cells, which are often the cause of urinary tract infections. These devices mimicked the environment inside human cells that host the invading bacteria during infections. The scientists found that the bacterial colonies would grow to the point where they would be squeezed by either the walls of the chamber, the fibers, or the gel. This self-generated stress was itself a trigger of the biofilm formation.
"This was very surprising, but we saw all the things you would expect from a biofilm," said Levchenko, the John C. Malone Professor of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Yale Systems Biology Institute. "The cells produced the biofilm components and suddenly became very antibiotic-resistant. And all of that was accompanied by an indication that the cells were under biological stress and the stress was coming from this mechanical interaction with the environment."
With this discovery, Levchenko said, researchers can use various devices that mimic other cellular environments and explore biofilm formation under countless environments and circumstances. They can also use the devices introduced in this study to produce biofilms rapidly, precisely, and in high numbers in a simple, inexpensive, and reproducible way. This would allow screening drugs that could potentially breach the protective layer of the biofilms and break it down.
"Having a disease model like this is a must when you want to do these kinds of drug-screening experiments," he said. "We can now grow biofilms in specific shapes and specific locations in a completely predictable way."
William Weir | EurekAlert!
Autophagy: Scientists discover novel role for self-recycling process in the brain
30.03.2020 | Universität zu Köln
New metabolism discovered in bacteria
30.03.2020 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.
A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...
Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.
The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.
Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.
Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....
An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications
With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...
Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a framework by which wireless devices with different radio technologies will be able to communicate directly with each other.
Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical...
26.03.2020 | Event News
23.03.2020 | Event News
03.03.2020 | Event News
30.03.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
30.03.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
30.03.2020 | Life Sciences