Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Automation & Microfluidics
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Chips that Listen to Bacteria

Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Researchers have developed a chip that enables them to electrochemically image the signaling molecules from colonies spatially and temporally.

In a study published 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 application—the 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 Daniel Bellin (electrical engineering) and Hassan Sakhtah (biology), say that this is the first time integrated circuits have been used for such an application—imaging 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 to each other.”

Cells, Dietrich explains, mediate their physiological activities using secreted molecules. The team looked specifically at phenazines, which are secreted metabolites that control gene expression. Their study found that the bacterial colonies produced a phenazine gradient that, they say, is likely to be of physiological significance and contribute to colony morphogenesis.

“This is a big step forward,” Dietrich continues. “We describe using this chip to ‘listen in’ on conversations taking place in biofilms, but we are also proposing to use it to interrupt these conversations and thereby disrupt the biofilm. In addition to the pure science implications of these studies, a potential application of this would be to integrate such chips into medical devices that are common sites of biofilm formation, such as catheters, and then use the chips to limit bacterial colonization.”

The next step for the team will be to develop a larger chip that will enable larger colonies to be imaged at higher spatial and temporal resolutions.

“This represents a new and exciting way in which solid-state electronics can be used to study biological systems,” Shepard adds. “This is one of the many emerging ways integrated circuit technology is having impact in biotechnology and the life sciences.”

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Engineers Build Biologically Powered Chip
System combines biological ion channels with solid-state transistors to create a new kind of electronics.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Lab-on-a-Chip Speeds up HIV Testing
Fast, low-cost device uses the cloud to speed up testing for HIV and more.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Scientific News
Point of Care Diagnostics - A Cautious Revolution
Advances in molecular biology, coupled with the miniaturization and improved sensitivity of assays and devices in general, have enabled a new wave of point-of-care (POC) or “bedside” diagnostics.
Size Matters for Particles in Bloodstream
Research uncovers more information about how particles behave in the human bloodstream.
3D-Printing in Science: Conference Co-Staged with LABVOLUTION
LABVOLUTION 2017 will have an added highlight of a simultaneous conference, "3D-Printing in Science".
Analytical Science Breakthrough Could Lead To Medical Revolution
A breakthrough in analytical science s could allow pharmaceutical research to be faster and more precise.
Lab-on-a-Chip Detects Effects of Poison
A fast and efficient mixer has been developed for testing the effect of toxic substances faster by using a new lab-on-a-chip.
Analysing 10,000 Cells Simultaneously
New techniquethat traps 10,000 cells on a single chip has potential for cancer screening for individuals.
Puttng Cells Through Their Paces
An obstacle course for human lung cells could be the answer for better testing the effectiveness of potential new drugs.
Dolomite Bio’s Single Cell RNA-Seq System Enables High Speed Encapsulation
Dolomite Bio has developed the Single-Cell RNA-Seq System for efficient, high throughput single cell transcriptomics.
NASA's DNA Sequencing in Space is a Success
DNA has been sequenced in space for the first time ever for the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation, using the MinION sequencing device.
Lab-on-a-Stick: Miniaturised Clinical Testing For Fast Detection Of Antibiotic Resistance
A portable power-free test for the rapid detection of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been developed by academics at Loughborough University and the University of Reading.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos