February 21, 2008
Scientists find innovative method for cultivating bacteria
Two Northeastern University researchers have discovered a way to domesticate “stubborn” microbial species. The revolutionary method capitalizes on their earlier technology to grow microorganisms in diffusion chambers incubated in natural environment. Now Professors Slava Epstein and Kim Lewis, Director of Northeastern’s Antimicrobial Discovery Center, have shown that a series of such incubations lead to the appearance of variants capable of growth on standard media. Additionally, they designed a “chip” allowing massively parallel growth and isolation of pure microbial cultures.
“This new process will allow Northeastern researchers to grow microorganisms without having to painstakingly separate the strains as previous techniques required,” said Epstein, Associate Professor of Microbiology at Northeastern University.
The net effect of the new developments is a simple, high throughput technology to access a novel source of biological diversity: previously uncultivated microbial species. Microbial cultivation is a fundamental tool in both basic and applied microbiology, and invaluable in obtaining sufficient microbial biomass to harvest useful molecules it produces.
The new technology will enable growing and utilizing novel species important for application in bioremediation, alternative fuel research, and drug discovery.
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Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.