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Measuring Bacterium Nanomotion within its Aqueous Growth Environment

Measuring Bacterium Nanomotion within its Aqueous Growth Environment

Novel Technique Measures Novel Technique Measures Nanomotion of Bacterium in its Aqueous Growth Environment.

Have you ever wondered if bacteria can make distinct sounds? It is possible to tell if bacteria are alive by listening to them. The bacteria would stop making such sounds if they were to be killed with an antibiotic — unless the bacteria were resistant to the antibiotic.

Novel Technique Measures Novel Technique Measures Nanomotion of Bacterium in its Aqueous Growth Environment.
Artist’s impression of a graphene drum detecting nanomotion of a single bacterium. Image Credit: Irek Roslon at Delft University of Technology.

This is exactly what a team should do. TU DelftDr. Farbod Alijani, a team of researchers, has achieved this feat. The graphene was used by the researchers to capture low-level sound in one bacterium. The journal published their findings. Nature Nanotechnology.

The Sound of a Single Bacterium

Initially, Farbod Alijani’s team was interested in the fundamentals of graphene mechanics, but they became curious about what would happen if this highly sensitive material came into contact with a single biological object.

Graphene, a type of carbon that is composed of a single layer atoms, is also known as the wonder substance. It’s very strong with nice electrical and mechanical properties, and it’s also extremely sensitive to external forces.

Dr. Farbod Aliani, Delft University of Technology

The investigators began working with Cees Dekker’s nanobiology group and Peter Steeneken’s nanomechanics group. The team performed their first experiments using this group. E. coliWith the help of Irek Roslon, Ph.D student, and Dr. Aleksandre Japarze, postdoctoral researcher.

We were amazed at what we saw. The random oscillations generated by a single bacterium adhering to a graphene drum generate random oscillations with amplitudes lower than the nanometers we could detect. We could hear the sound made by a single bacterium.

Cees dekker, Delft University of Technology

Punching a Graphene drum with a Bacterium

The incredibly small oscillations are a result of the bacteria’s biological processes, with their flagella playing a major role (tails present on the cell surface that propels bacteria).

To understand how tiny these flagellar beats on graphene are, it’s worth saying that they are at least 10 billion times smaller than a boxer’s punch when reaching a punch bag. Yet, these nanoscale beats can be converted to sound tracks and listened to—and how cool is that,” remarked Alijani.

Graphene for Fast Detection Of Antibiotic Resistance

This study has profound implications for the detection and treatment of antibiotic resistance. The experiment showed that oscillations continued at the same level if the bacteria was resistant. Vibrations decreased for a few hours after the bacteria became sensitive to the antibiotic, but then they disappeared completely. Graphene drums have a high sensitivity, so that one cell can detect the phenomenon.

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Future plans include optimizing our single cell graphene antibiotic sensitivity platform, and validating it against a variety disease samples. So it can be used in clinical practice as a rapid diagnostic toolkit to detect antibiotic resistance..

Dr. Farbod Aliani, Delft University of Technology

This would be a valuable tool in the fight against antibiotic resistant, an ever-increasing danger to human health worldwide,” concluded Peter Steeneken.

Journal Reference:

Rosłoń, I. E., et al. (2022). Probing nanomotion in single bacteria using graphene drums. Nature Nanotechnology.


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