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Tiny shock absorbers help bacteria stick around inside the body

optimal force required to keep the finger trap-like FimH anchor from breaking loose.

"This system is similar to a set of shock absorbers on your car that dampen turbulent forces caused by bumpy road conditions," added study co-author Dr. Wendy Thomas, assistant professor of bioengineering at the UW.

The researchers found that fimbrial uncoiling and recoiling events balance each other at an intermediate force level that corresponds to the force at which the sticky protein tip forms the most stable bond with the surface. Thus, the mechanical and adhesive features of the system evolved together to help the bacteria persist in tough environments inside a host animal or person.

"Research on these fimbriae uncovers something that's essentially a mechanical nanotechnological device created by nature, and gives us the opportunity to adapt such a system for biotechnological and even other technical uses," said study co-author Dr. Evgeni Sokurenko, associate professor of microbiology at the UW and a principal investigator at the NIH Bioengineering Research Partnership that primarily funded the project. "It also improves our understanding of how to fight bacteria that persist in turbulent environments, like the human urinary tract or intestines."


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Source:University of Washington


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