A 3D printing device makes it possible to study biofilm treatments
Preventing plaque buildup on teeth could one day benefit from a new technology developed by American researchers.
When bacteria and other microbes adhere to surfaces and create biofilm, they form complex communities that are often resistant to traditional disinfectants.
Now scientists at Montana State University are developing a tool to replicate microbial mosaics so that innovative treatments can be investigated.
They presented their work at the Montana Biofilm Annual Meeting in Bozeman July 12-14.
Over the past two years, researchers have designed and tested a 3D printing device capable of precisely laying out a grid of individual bacteria in hydrogel, a transparent Jell-O-like substance. Taking advantage of advances in 3D printing, researchers can map microbes in drops of liquid hydrogel resin, then use laser light to solidify the material, building a rudimentary biofilm.
So far, the team has only used one species of bacteria, but by using the 3D printer to run multiple passages, each with a different species or strain of bacteria, they could start creating the biofilms. more complex and layered than found on teeth, for example.
By adding a fluorescent dye to bacteria, researchers can easily see the microbes using specialized microscopes, allowing them to study the interactions that occur between cells.
“Even the simplest biofilm systems are complicated,” said Kathryn Zimlich.
“It’s like a forest where there is a lot of diversity. We needed new tools to see how this diversity develops and is maintained.
“One thing that is becoming clearer is that it is possible to treat these pathogenic bacteria by modifying the interactive biofilm environment instead of trying to use harsh chemicals,” Zimlich added.
For example, treatments could involve the introduction of harmless bacteria that compete with harmful microbes and disrupt the protective biofilm.