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Chips that listen to bacteria
Date:2/10/2014

New York, NYFebruary 10, 2014In a study published today in Nature Communications, a research team led by Ken Shepard, professor of electrical engineering and biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, and Lars Dietrich, assistant professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, has demonstrated that integrated circuit technology, the basis of modern computers and communications devices, can be used for a most unusual applicationthe study of signaling in bacterial colonies. They have developed a chip based on complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology that enables them to electrochemically image the signaling molecules from these colonies spatially and temporally. In effect, they have developed chips that "listen" to bacteria.

"This is an exciting new application for CMOS technology that will provide new insights into how biofilms form," says Shepard. "Disrupting biofilm formation has important implications in public health in reducing infection rates."

The researchers, who include PhD students Dan Bellin (electrical engineering) and Hassan Sakhtah (biology), say that this is the first time integrated circuits have been used for such an applicationimaging small molecules electrochemically in a multicellular structure. While optical microscopy techniques remain paramount for studying biological systems (using photons allows for relatively non-invasive interaction to the biological system being studied), they cannot directly detect critical components of physiology, such as primary metabolism and signaling factors.

The team thought there might be a better way to directly detect small molecules through techniques that employ direct transduction to electrons, without using photos as an intermediary. They made an integrated circuit, a chip that, Shepard says, is an "'active' glass slide, a slide that not only forms a solid-support for the bacterial colony but also 'listens' to the bacteria as they talk
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly.evarts@columbia.edu
347-453-7408
Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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