Using an innovative device with microscopic chambers, researchers from four institutions, including Johns Hopkins, have gleaned important new information about how bacteria survive in hostile environments by forming antibiotic-resistant communities called biofilms. These biofilms play key roles in cystic fibrosis, urinary tract infections and other illnesses, and the researchers say their findings could help in the development of new treatments and preventive measures.
There is a perception that single-celled organisms are asocial, but that is misguided, said Andre Levchenko, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in The Johns Hopkins Universitys Whiting School of Engineering and an affiliate of the university's Institute for NanoBioTechnology. When bacteria are under stresswhich is the story of their livesthey team up and form this collective called a biofilm. If you look at naturally occurring biofilms, they have very complicated architecture. They are like cities with channels for nutrients to go in and waste to go out.
With a better understanding of how and why bacteria form biofilms, researchers may be able to disrupt activity in the bacterial communities and block harmful effects on their human hosts. The teams findings were detailed in an article published in the November 2007 issue of the journal Public Library of Science Biology.
In the article, the researchers from Johns Hopkins; Virginia Tech; the University of California, San Diego; and Lund University in Sweden reported on the observation of the bacteria E. coli growing in the cramped conditions of a new microfluidic device. The device, which allows scientists to use nanoscale volumes of cells in solution, contains a series of tiny chambers of various shapes and sizes that keep the bacteria uniformly suspended in a culture medium.
Levchenko and his colleagues recorded the behavior of single layers of cells using real-time microscopy. Computational m
|Contact: Mary Spiro|
Johns Hopkins University