This unprecedented degree of control over biofilm, Wood said, is key to advancing bioreactor technology because it enables scientists to work with bacteria, growing them at greater densities and in specific proportions. For example, by controlling the formation and dispersal of biofilms, scientists would be able to switch the production of a bioreactor from one chemical to another with limited downtime, in effect creating a seamless manufacturing refinery that continuously pumps out in-demand chemicals. And that's exactly where the team's research is leading.
"In the next application, we want to maintain a consortia a mix of different bacteria where one group makes the first part of some important chemical and the other group makes the second part that is needed," Wood said. "Also, both groups could make two things that are needed at the same time and you don't want to separate. We want to create complex groupings of bacteria to create complex chemicals. To do this, the bacteria groups need to be in the right proportions, and no one had yet approached this. This can be done now with what we've discovered."
What's more is that these technologies are also applicable to drug discovery, drug delivery and pharmaceutical applications, as they can be used to mimic the human body environment, Jayaraman noted. For example, any ingested drug needs to pass through the microbial consortia that exists inside of a person before acting on its target, he explained. Using this model, researchers can now better assess the effect of this consortia on the fate and clearance of the drug molecule, he said.
|Contact: Ryan Garcia|
Texas A&M University