Understanding how magnetotactic bacteria respond to magnetic fields
Some species of bacteria are magnetotactic, meaning that they have the unique capacity to sense and respond to magnetic fields. These bacteria possess magnetite nanoparticles called magnetosomes, which allow them to align with external magnetic fields like a compass needle. We can control the movement of these bacteria from afar by simply manipulating the magnetic fields that they experience. This capability has tremendous potential in biotechnological applications, for example, it may allow us to use cells as controllable drug delivery devices.
Magnetotactic bacteria propel themselves using flagella, which are corkscrew shaped appendages that generate thrust when they rotate. However, little is known how the rotation of the flagella is affected by magnetic fields. The aim of this project is to study the interplay between the magnetosome and the flagellum using a range of approaches, such as automated cell tracking, algorithm development, mathematical modelling, biochemistry, structural biology, genetics, molecular biology, and microfluidics. While highly interdisciplinary, this project can be tailored to suit the student’s interests.
This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Julien Bergeron (Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology), Dr Sarah Staniland (Department of Chemistry), and Dr William Durham (Department of Physics and Astronomy).
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