Scientists create computer chips that can 'listen' to bacteria and virues



'Listen' to bacteria and viruses? Sounds Insane

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.

Integrated circuit technology is the basis of computers and modern cell phones but the Columbia team has developed a new kind of chip using "complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor" (CMOS) technology. This technology, they claim, allows the chips to "listen" to bacteria.
The intention of the researchers it to understand how "biofilms" form. Biofilms are complex communities of microbial cells that grow together on living or inert surfaces. Experts estimate that 60-80% of microbial infections in humans are caused by biofilm bacteria.



Scientists create computer chips that can 'listen' to bacteria and virues

The researchers, who include PhD students Dan 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.

This investigation revealed that hydrodynamic interactions between competing genotypes give rise to an evolutionarily stable growth rate that stands in stark contrast with that observed in typical laboratory experiments: cells within a biofilm can outcompete other genotypes by growing more slowly. Our work reveals that hydrodynamics can profoundly affect how bacteria compete and evolve in porous environments, the habitat where most bacteria live.

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