Biologists ‘feed’ bacteria with nanotubes

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have been able to introduce carbon nanotubes into bacterial cells, turning them into electrical generators with “inherited nanobionics.”

Swiss biologists have demonstrated a method that allows carbon nanotubes to be introduced into bacterial cells.

Such microbes can form the basis of new biotechnologies, the creation of living sensors and energy sources.

Moreover, they pass on their nanotubes to the next generations, demonstrating the first example of “inherited nanobionics”.

Single- walled carbon nanotubes are thin and hollow filaments of graphene with walls only one atom thick. They have a number of unusual properties, including tremendous strength and electrical conductivity.

Until now, nanotubes have only been introduced into eukaryotic cells, which capture them using various forms of endocytosis.

This allows, for example, to study the reactions taking place inside or to develop new tools for the “point” delivery of drugs to diseased tissues.

In contrast, bacterial cells are not capable of endocytosis and, moreover, they have external walls that make it difficult for them to absorb such large objects as nanotubes.

To achieve this, the team of EPFL professor Ardemis Boghossian coated the nanotubes with positively charged proteins. This design is attracted to the negatively charged outer membrane of Gram -negative bacteria.

Experiments with two types of such microbes – Synechocystis and Nostoc – showed that nanotubes passively penetrate cells.

They can be used to observe intracellular processes due to the fluorescence of nanotubes in the near infrared range.

Without losing this opportunity, scientists followed the growth and division of bacteria and found that nanotubes are transferred from the mother cell to the daughter.

“We call it “inherited nanobionics,” says Professor Bogosyan. “It’s like having an artificial limb that gives you more options than a natural one. And imagine that children can inherit these abilities from you.

In addition, bacteria “equipped” with nanotubes can dramatically increase the performance of microbial fuel cells . Such devices make it possible to generate “green” electricity with the help of microorganisms – for example, photosynthetic ones.

Synechocystis and Nostoc , which scientists experimented with, are just such cyanobacteria. In an experimental microbial fuel cell, they generated 15 times more electricity with nanotubes than without.

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