July 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm #3188
It’s cool to see new imaging capabilities (super-resolution microscopy) reveal the characteristics of bacteria in their normal state — biofilms. We have some preliminary news that we may be including some of their video into our film — which is 1 week away from picture lock!
Discovery opens door to attacking biofilms that cause chronic infections
By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | July 12, 2012
BERKELEY A clever new imaging technique discovered at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals a possible plan of attack for many bacterial diseases, such as cholera, lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients and even chronic sinusitis, that form biofilms that make them resistant to antibiotics.
Until now, scientists could only see growing clusters of bacterial cells in a biofilm. But new imaging techniques allowed UC Berkeley researchers to zoom into these clusters and record how the bacteria build their impregnable castles, providing key targets for drugs to break up the biofilms . (Video produced by Veysel Berk, UC Berkeley — see 3D Architecture of Microbial Cities – YouTube )
By devising a new fluorescent labeling strategy and employing super-resolution light microscopy, the researchers were able to examine the structure of sticky plaques called bacterial biofilms that make these infections so tenacious. They also identified genetic targets for potential drugs that could break up the bacterial community and expose the bugs to the killing power of antibiotics.
Eventually, we want to make these bugs homeless, said lead researcher Veysel Berk, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at UC Berkeley.
Berk and his co-authors, including Nobel laureate and former UC Berkeley professor Steven Chu, report their findings in the July 13 issue of the journal Science.
In their natural habitat, 99.9 percent of all bacteria live as a community and attach to surfaces as biofilms; according to the National Institutes of Health, 80 percent of all infections in humans are related to biofilms, Berk said.
The researchers were able to employ new techniques that allowed them to zoom into a street-level view of these biofilms, where they learned how they grow from a single cell and come together to form rooms and whole buildings, Berk said. Now, we can come up with a logical approach to discovering how to take down their building, or prevent them from forming the building itself.
Combining super-resolution microscopy with the technique Berk developed, which allows continuous labeling of growing and dividing cells in culture, biologists in many fields will be able to record stop-motion video of how bacteria build their castles, he said.
This work has led to new insights into the development of these complex structures and will no doubt pave the way to new approaches to fighting infectious disease and also bacteriological applications in environmental and industrial settings, said Chu, a former UC Berkeley professor of physics and of molecular and cell biology and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
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