Bacteria May Signal Through Nanowires

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 12 (UPI) — Some bacteria can grow electrical “hair” that allows them to link up in big biological circuits and create large cooperating colonies, U.S. researchers say.

The finding by a University of Southern California biophysicist suggests microbial colonies can grow, communicate and share energy through electrically conducting hairs known as nanowires, reported Monday.

“This is the first measurement of electron transport along biological nanowires produced by bacteria,” Mohamed El-Naggar, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at USC, said.

Understanding how such microbial colonies survive could be a step in discovering ways to destroy harmful communities, such as biofilms on teeth, that have proven highly resistant to antibiotics.

Such understanding could also be used to promote beneficent colonies such as those in bacterial fuel cells under development at many institutions.

“The flow of electrons in various directions is intimately tied to the metabolic status of different parts of the biofilm,” El-Naggar said. “Bacterial nanowires can provide the necessary links … for the survival of a microbial circuit.”

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Categorized | Fuel Cells, Other
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