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Pseudomonas aeruginosa SEM

Scientists turn bacteria as an instrument for measuring fluid speeds

A group of researchers from Princeton University has detected bacteria which has the ability to find the speed of fluids in motion. There are many different types of cells which can sense flow similar to the skin cells in human beings. The research has been published in Nature journal.

Zemer Gitai, a biology professor and a senior author on the research paper of Princeton’s Edwin Grant Conklin University said that they have discovered that bacteria can also be used for detecting speed and also added that there’s an application where we can use the bacteria as a flow sensor and we can know the speed in real time. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is that bacteria which have a built-in speedometer.

Pseudomonas is the bacteria which is responsible for health issues and healthcare-related infections per year and this ubiquitous pathogen is found in and on the bodies, in the soil, in the streams of water and throughout the hospitals. This bacteria was found as a serious threat in the centre for disease control and prevention.


Gitai said that chemical disinfection is used instead of scrubbing in some hospitals since pseudomonas loves to grow in pipes. Pseudomonas is said to be surrounded by flowing fluids like the bloodstream, the urinary tract, the gastrointestinal tract as well as in the lungs or in plumbing systems or in medical equipment too like catheters which is one of the primary vectors used for post-surgical infections. Gitai also added that they have found something new about pseudomonas that they can also detect the flow and respond to it and they can change their attitude too.

A postdoctoral research associate in Gitai’s lab, Joseph Sanfilippo and a 2017 graduate alumnus Alexander Lorestani are the main authors on this paper. They together found out that the bacteria can detect the nearby flow of the genes too and those genes are known as fro which stands for flow-regulated operon. Sanfilippo said that fro is tuned as per the speed and it’s not just a switch to on and off but it’s more like a dimmer switch than a light switch.

The researchers created a link between the fro and gene so that they can see in the microscope and thus ended up creating visual speedometer and it is visualized using the light of the flow that is the brighter the glow the faster the flow and Gitai said that they found out something interesting that the speed range matched with the fluids present in the bloodstream of urinary tract.

The scientists found out that the rate of flow in average sized human veins are about 100 per second and they also found that the fro was not able to detect flows below 8 per second but it responded to the flow between 40 and 400 per-second and stay above that.

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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