Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > "Two-handed" Marine Microbes Point to New Method for Isolating Harmful Forms of Chemicals

This microfluidic device was used to discover new information about marine bacteria.

Credit: Roman Stocker, MIT
This microfluidic device was used to discover new information about marine bacteria.

Credit: Roman Stocker, MIT

Abstract:
Major impact envisioned for pharmaceutical, food, agriculture industries

"Two-handed" Marine Microbes Point to New Method for Isolating Harmful Forms of Chemicals

Arlington, VA | Posted on April 16th, 2009

Scientists studying how marine bacteria move have discovered that a sharp variation in water current segregates right-handed bacteria from their left-handed brethren, impelling the microbes in opposite directions.

This finding and the possibility of quickly and cheaply implementing the segregation of two-handed objects in the laboratory could have a big impact on industries like the pharmaceutical industry, for which the separation of right-handed from left-handed molecules can be crucial to drug safety.

"This is a remarkable example of how basic research, initially focused on understanding how bacteria interact with their environment, can lead to discoveries far beyond that envisioned," said David Garrison, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Biological Oceanography Program, which funded the research.

While single-celled bacteria do not have hands, their helical-shaped flagella spiral either clockwise or counter-clockwise, making opposite-turning flagella similar to human hands in that they create mirror images of one another.

This two-handed quality is called chirality, and in a molecule, it can make the difference between healing and harming the human body.

"This discovery could impact our understanding of how water currents affect ocean microbes, particularly with respect to their ability to forage for food, since chiral effects make them drift off-course," said Roman Stocker, a marine scientist at MIT and lead investigator on the research project. "But it is also important for several industries that rely on the ability to separate two-handed molecules."

Stocker and graduate student Marcos, along with co-authors Henry Fu and Thomas Powers of Brown University, published their findings in the April 17 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

One of the best-known instances of a chiral molecule causing widespread harm occurred in the 1950s, when the drug thalidomide was given to pregnant women to prevent morning sickness.

One naturally occurring form--or isomer--of thalidomide reduces nausea; the other causes birth defects. In another commonly used chiral drug, naproxen, one isomer is analgesic; the other causes liver damage.

In their paper, the researchers describe how they designed a microfluidic environment--a device about the size of an iPod nano that has channels containing water and bacteria--to create a "shear" flow of layers of water moving at different speeds.

In their tests, Stocker and Marcos used a non-motile mutant of the bacterium Leptospira biflexa, whose entire body has the shape of a right-handed helix.They injected the Leptospira into the center of the microfluidic device and demonstrated that the bacteria drift off-course in a direction dictated by their chirality.

The researchers also developed a mathematical model of the process, and are implementing this new approach to separate objects at molecular scales.

"The methods currently used to separate chiral molecules are far more expensive and far slower than the microfluidic option," said Marcos.

"While we still have a way to go to separate actual chiral molecules, we think our work is very promising for the agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industries."

####

About National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Cheryl Dybas
NSF
(703) 292-7734


Denise Brehm
MIT
(617) 253-8069

Copyright © National Science Foundation

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified: Scientists invent ground-breaking new method that puts quantum computers within reach December 5th, 2016

Shape matters when light meets atom: Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices December 4th, 2016

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses: Medicine diffusion capsule could locally treat multiple ailments and diseases over several weeks December 3rd, 2016

Novel Electrode Structure Provides New Promise for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries December 3rd, 2016

Microfluidics/Nanofluidics

Fabrication of a Miniature Paper-Based Electroosmotic Actuator November 29th, 2016

Researchers use acoustic waves to move fluids at the nanoscale November 15th, 2016

Researchers use temperature to control droplet movement: Method for moving fluids on a surface may find uses in condensers, microfluidics, and de-icing October 14th, 2016

Novel nanoscale detection of real-time DNA amplification holds promise for diagnostics: Research team led by Nagoya University develop a label-free method for detecting DNA amplification in real time based on refractive index changes in diffracted light September 12th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified: Scientists invent ground-breaking new method that puts quantum computers within reach December 5th, 2016

Shape matters when light meets atom: Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices December 4th, 2016

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Discoveries

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified: Scientists invent ground-breaking new method that puts quantum computers within reach December 5th, 2016

Shape matters when light meets atom: Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices December 4th, 2016

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses: Medicine diffusion capsule could locally treat multiple ailments and diseases over several weeks December 3rd, 2016

Novel Electrode Structure Provides New Promise for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries December 3rd, 2016

Announcements

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified: Scientists invent ground-breaking new method that puts quantum computers within reach December 5th, 2016

Shape matters when light meets atom: Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices December 4th, 2016

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses: Medicine diffusion capsule could locally treat multiple ailments and diseases over several weeks December 3rd, 2016

Novel Electrode Structure Provides New Promise for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries December 3rd, 2016

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

News from Quorum: The Agricultural Research Service of the USDA uses a Quorum Cryo-SEM preparation system for the study of mites, ticks and other soft bodied organisms November 22nd, 2016

Water, water -- the two types of liquid water: Understanding water's behavior could help with Alzheimer's research November 11th, 2016

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years: Targeted medicine deliveries and increased energy efficiency are just two of many ways October 26th, 2016

New Agricultural Research Center Debuts at UCF October 12th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project