LIGHT MICROSCOPY/CELL BIOLOGY: Optical slide innovation enables bacterial motility discovery

An innovation in optical microscopy substrate has enabled a discovery that overturns scientific assumption and provides insight into the way bacteria move.1 The contrast-enhancing slides, called Surfs by French developer Nanolane, were designed to enhance nanometric characterization with a conventional inverted light microscope to <1 nm resolution, and to facilitate the study of biological samples, biofilms, and organic layers in liquid or in air.

Scientific literature has purported that bacteria move using slime that is produced at one end of the organism. But researchers with INSERM and CNRS at Aix-Marseilles University (France) have demonstrated that slime is generated along the entire length of the organism, and that this material helps a bacterium both propel itself across a surface and adhere to the surface.

The researchers used Surfs to complement their wet-surface enhanced ellipsometric contrast (SEEC) microscopy technique. They hope that their discovery enables better understanding of the roles of bacteria and extracellular matrices in such fields as cancer biology and bacteriology. Surfs are compatible with most nano-analytical methods and instruments, including microfluidics, fluorescence, and atomic force microscopy.

1. Ducret et al., PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1120979109 (2012).

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