In the past 10 years, harmful algal blooms -- sudden increases in the population of algae, typically in coastal regions and freshwater systems -- have become a more serious problem for marine life throughout the U.S. The blooms are made up of phytoplankton, which naturally produce biotoxins, and those toxins can affect not only fish and plant life in the water, but also mammals, birds and humans who live near those areas.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the events have become more common and are occurring in more regions around the world than ever before.
UCLA's imaging flow cytometer is powered by deep learning
Zoltan Gorocs, Miu Tamamitsu,Vittorio Bianco, Patrick Wolf,Shounak Roy, Koyoshi Shindo, Kyrollos Yanny, Yichen Wu, Hatice Ceylan Koydemir, Yair Rivenson & Aydogan Ozcan. Light: Science & Applications (2018) 7:66. DOI 10.1038/s41377-018-0067
The ability to forecast harmful algal blooms and their locations, size and severity could help scientists prevent their harmful effects. But it has been difficult to predict when and where the blooms will occur.
Now, UCLA researchers have developed an inexpensive and portable device that can analyze water samples immediately, which would provide marine biologists with real-time insight about the possibility that the algal blooms could occur in the area they're testing. That, in turn, would allow officials who manage coastal areas to make better, faster decisions about, for example, closing beaches and shellfish beds before algal blooms cause serious damage.
UCLA researchers created a new flow cytometer -- which detects and measures the physical and chemical characteristics of tiny objects within a sample -- based on holographic imaging and artificial intelligence. It can quickly analyze the composition of various plankton species within a matter of seconds, much faster than the current standard method, which involves collecting water samples manually and running them through several steps.
The research, which was published online by Light: Science & Applications and will appear in the journal's print edition, was led by Aydogan Ozcan, the UCLA Chancellor's Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.
The growing threat from blooms is being caused in part by higher water temperature due to climate change, and in part by high levels of nutrients (mainly phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon) from fertilizers used for lawns and farmland.
The toxic compounds produced by the blooms can deplete oxygen from the water and can block sunlight from reaching fish and aquatic plants, which cause them to die or migrate elsewhere. In addition, fish and nearby wildlife can even ingest the toxins; and in some rare cases, if they are close enough to the blooms, humans can inhale them which can affect the nervous system, brain and liver, and eventually lead to death.
Scientists have generally tried to understand algal blooms through manual sampling and traditional light microscopy used to create high-resolution maps that show the phytoplankton composition over extended periods of time. To build those maps, technicians have to collect water samples by hand using plankton nets, and then bring them to a lab for analysis. The process is also challenging because the concentration and composition of algae in a given body of water can change quickly -- even in the time it takes to analyze samples.
The device created by Ozcan and his colleagues speeds up the entire process and because it does not use lenses or other optical components, it performs the testing at a much lower cost. It images algae samples -- and is capable of scanning a wide range of other substances, too --using holography and artificial intelligence.
Commercially available imaging flow cytometers used in environmental microbiology can cost from $40,000 to $100,000, which has limited their widespread use. The UCLA cytometer is compact and lightweight and it can be assembled from parts costing less than $2,500.
One challenge the researchers had to overcome was ensuring the device would have enough light to create well-lit, high-speed images without motion blur.
"It's similar to taking a picture of a Formula 1 race car," Ozcan said. "The cameraman needs a very short exposure to avoid motion blur. In our case, that means using a very bright, pulsed light source with a pulse length about one-thousandth the duration of the blink of an eye."
To test the device, the scientists measured ocean samples along the Los Angeles coastline and obtaining images of its phytoplankton composition. They also measured the concentration of a potentially toxic alga called Pseudo-nitzschia along six public beaches in the region. The UCLA researchers' measurements were comparable to those in a recent study by the California Department of Public Health's Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program.
Zoltán Gӧrӧcs, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar and the study's first author, said the researchers are in the process of discussing their new device with marine biologists to determine where it would be most useful.
"Our device can be adapted to look at larger organisms with a higher throughput or look at smaller ones with a better image quality while sacrificing some of the throughput," Gӧrӧcs said.
Other co-authors of the paper are Miu Tamamitsu, Vittorio Bianco, Patrick Wolf, Shounak Roy, Koyoshi Shindo, Kyrollos Yanny, Yichen Wu, Hatice Ceylan Koydemir and Yair Rivenson.
The research was funded by the U.S. Army Research Office.
Yaobiao Li | EurekAlert!
Defects promise quantum communication through standard optical fiber
01.10.2018 | University of Groningen
How swarms of nanomachines could improve the efficiency of any machine
28.09.2018 | University of Luxembourg
The WT1 gene fulfills a central role in the development of a healthy, proper functioning kidney. Mutations in WT1 lead to impairments in kidney development and cause Wilms tumors, a pediatric kidney cancer. Researchers of the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena have now discovered a further important function of WT1. It is also active outside the kidneys in the central nervous system and is involved in controlling movement. If the gene is missing in the spinal cord, locomotor aberrancies occur. The results have now been published in Life Science Alliance.
Transcription factor WT1 (Wilms tumor 1) has been known for nearly 30 years and it is significantly involved in the development of a healthy and properly...
A unique feature that sets neurons apart from all other cells are their beautiful, highly elaborate dendritic trees. These structures have evolved to receive the vast majority of information entering a neuron, which is integrated and processed by virtue of the dendrites’ geometry and active properties. Higher brain functions such as memory and attention all critically rely on dendritic computations, which are in turn controlled by inhibitory synaptic input. A team of scientists, led by Johannes J. Letzkus (MPI for Brain Research), now has identified a novel form of inhibition that dominantly controls dendritic function and strongly depends on previous experiences.
Our brain is a remarkably complex system. It is not only comprised of billions of neurons, but each individual neuron by itself even has exceptional processing...
The discovery of lead in Flint, Michigan's drinking water drew renewed attention to the health risks posed by the metal. Now researchers at the University of...
Our brain is a complex network with innumerable connections between cells. Neuronal cells have long thin extensions, so-called axons, which are branched to increase the number of interactions. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have collaborated with researchers from Portugal and France to study cellular branching processes. They demonstrated a novel mechanism that induces branching of microtubules, an intracellular support system. The newly discovered dynamics of microtubules has a key role in neuronal development. The results were recently published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
From the twigs of trees to railroad switches – our environment teems with rigid branched objects. These objects are so omnipresent in our lives, we barely...
The Fraunhofer FEP has been involved in developing processes and equipment for cleaning, sterilization, and surface modification for decades. The CleanHand Network for development of systems and technologies to clean surfaces, materials, and objects was established in May 2018 to bundle the expertise of many partnering organizations. As a partner in the CleanHand Network, Fraunhofer FEP will present the Network and current research topics of the Institute in the field of hygiene and cleaning at the parts2clean trade fair, October 23-25, 2018 in Stuttgart, at the booth of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance (Hall 5, Booth C31).
Test reports and studies on the cleanliness of European motorway rest areas, hotel beds, and outdoor pools increasingly appear in the press, especially during...
01.10.2018 | Event News
21.09.2018 | Event News
03.09.2018 | Event News
01.10.2018 | Life Sciences
01.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
01.10.2018 | Event News