Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Glow, Little E. Coli: Making Luminous Bacteria

Date:
March 6, 2009
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered how to make a strain of E. coli glow under fluorescent light. The technique could eventually be used to track down all sorts of pathogens and even help in the fight against breast cancer.

E. coli pili (upper left) attach to mannose-coated fluorescent polymers (upper right, lower left). Under white light, they glow blue, making them easy to identify.
Credit: Illustration by Sue Hill, Michigan Technological University

A team of Michigan Technological University researchers led by Associate Professor of Chemistry Haiying Liu has discovered how to make a strain of E. coli glow under fluorescent light. The technique could eventually be used to track down all sorts of pathogens and even help in the fight against breast cancer.

E. coli bacteria are naturally found in animal intestines and are usually harmless. But when virulent strains contaminate food, like spinach or peanuts, they can cause serious illness and even death.

The researchers' trick takes advantage of E. coli's affinity for the sugar mannose. Liu's team attached mannose molecules to specially engineered fluorescent polymers and stirred them into a container of water swimming with E. coli. Microscopic hairs on the bacteria, called pili, hooked onto the mannose molecules like Velcro, effectively coating the bacteria with the polymers.

Then the researchers shined white light onto E. coli colonies growing in the solution. The bugs lit up like blue fireflies. "They became very colorful and easy to see under a microscope," said Liu.

The technique could be adapted to identify a wide array of pathogens by mixing and matching from a library of different sugars and polymers that fluoresce different colors under different frequencies of light. If blue means E. coli, fuchsia could one day mean influenza.

With funding from a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, Liu is adapting the technique to combat breast cancer. Instead of mannose, he plans to link the fluorescent polymers to a peptide that homes in on cancer cells.

Once introduced to the vascular system, the polymers would travel through the body and stick to tumor cells. Then, illuminated by a type of infrared light that shines through human tissue, the polymers would glow, providing a beacon to pinpoint the location of the malignant cells.

The technique would allow surgeons to easily identify and remove malignant cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cuihua Xue et al. Highly Water-Soluble, Fluorescent, Conjugated Fluorene-Based Glycopolymers with Poly(ethylene glycol)-Tethered Spacers for Sensitive Detection of Escherichia coli. Chemistry - A European Journal, Volume 15 Issue 10, Pages 2289 - 2295 DOI: 10.1002/chem.200801875

Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "Glow, Little E. Coli: Making Luminous Bacteria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305170601.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2009, March 6). Glow, Little E. Coli: Making Luminous Bacteria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305170601.htm
Michigan Technological University. "Glow, Little E. Coli: Making Luminous Bacteria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305170601.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins