"We've shown that vertical orientation plays a critical role in key life-cycle events: vertically oriented bacteria can more readily detach from surfaces, allowing them to spread and disperse effectively," said Jacinta Conrad, a former postdoctoral researcher with Wong's group and an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston. "Our unique contribution is to directly relate single-cell behavior to specific events in the bacterial life cycle and thereby show how single-cell motility influences biofilm morphology."
The research team was able to develop a series of search engines and computer programs that use particle-tracking algorithms to quantitatively analyze time-lapse microscopy movies of bacterial motion on surfaces.
"Previously, graduate students had to look at cells manually and then laboriously track them from one frame to the next," Wong said. "Our computational approach allows us to increase the volume of data analyzed 100,000-fold and to perform the necessary analysis in a few hours rather than a few months.
"Moreover, we make sense of this mountain of information using search enginebased approaches. This represents a big advance in the way microscopes are used."
The work was conducted in collaboration with a research group at the University of Notre Dame led by Joshua Shrout, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering and geological sciences and at the Eck Institute for Global Health.
"P. aeruginosa infections are unfortunately the leading cause of death for individuals with cystic fibrosis," Shrout said. "In addition to these lung infections, P. aeruginosa also causes skin, eye and gastrointestinal infections. As we learn how P. aeruginosa colonizes surfaces, perhaps we can develop better methods to treat these infections."
"One of the most exciting factors of this work for me
|Contact: Wileen Wong Kromhout|
University of California -- Los Angeles