A new experimental platform promises to accelerate understanding how infectious bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. The microfluidic application rapidly encapsulates bacteria with varying antibiotic concentrations to study how they evolve to become resistant.
Using microfluidics to encapsulate cells is not novel; numerous lab-on-a-chip devices are already available. The researchers have used it to discover biomarkers for antibiotic resistance.
The established technique for studying antibiotic resistance involves gradually increasing the number of antibiotics fed to vials of bacteria in a solution. It reveals how some microbes evolve resistance, but it favors mutants that grow the fastest, making it difficult to control other factors such as population size, number of generations, and space occupied, all of which can influence the evolutionary process. By encapsulating cells in microdroplets, researchers can fine-tune their environments, allowing them to study new evolutionary trajectories.
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