Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Growing microbes from the human microbiome

By employing the use of a specially designed glass chip with tiny compartments, Caltech researchers have provided a way to target and grow specific microbes from the human gut. This is a key step in understanding which bacteria are helpful to human health and which are harmful.

Researchers started looking for bacterial species that contained a set of specific genetic sequences. To grow these microbes, the researchers turned to SlipChip, a microfluidic device. SlipChip is made up of two glass slides, each the size of a credit card, that have tiny etched grooves which become channels when the grooved surfaces are stacked atop one another. When a sample is added to the interconnected channels of the SlipChip, a single "slip" of the top chip will turn the channels into individual wells, with each well ideally holding a single microbe. Once sequestered in an isolated well, each individual bacterium can divide and grow without having to compete for resources with other types of faster-growing microbes.

The researchers then grew a compartment full of his target microbe in the SlipChip, and then they split the compartment in half. One half contains the live organism and the other half is sacrificed for its DNA to confirm that the sequence is that of the target microbe.

For further details, refer to the following paper:

L. Ma, J. Kim, R. Hatzenpichler, M. A. Karymov, N. Hubert, I. M. Hanan, E. B. Chang, R. F. Ismagilov. Gene-targeted microfluidic cultivation validated by isolation of a gut bacterium listed in Human Microbiome Project's Most Wanted taxa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404753111

Posted by Tim Sandle