Scientists of Top Institute Food & Nutrition, Wageningen University and Research Centre, NIZO food research and the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology in the Netherlands have developed a new technology that allows unprecedented miniaturisation of the growth of micro-organisms.
On a chip with the size of a postage stamp, more than one million cultures can be grown in parallel which opens up a wide range of uses from diagnosis of infection to the improvement of industrial bacteria. The corresponding paper ‘The micro Petri dish, a million-well chip for the culture and high-throughput screening of microorganisms’ has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (online Early Edition) on 7th November 2007.
A team of microbiologists and micro-engineering experts developed the chip that has the potential to meet the automation and miniaturisation needs of modern microbiology. The development of high-throughput bacterial screening methods has been slow in an era of advancements in fields like genomics and proteomics. The ‘micro Petri dish’ allows growth assays to catch up with other high-throughput technologies in the life sciences. ‘Besides that, the chip is readily manufactured, cheap and easy-to-use in a standard microbiology lab’ explain researchers Colin Ingham (WUR) and Johan van Hylckama Vlieg (NIZO).
The innovation is in the micro-engineering of a unique porous ceramic to create millions of wells that serve as growth areas for micro-organisms. The micron-scale wells of the chip can be regarded as an array of millions of “micro Petri dishes”, where bacteria or yeasts are efficiently supplied with nutrients from below through a porous membrane. By using this chip, assays for the detection and growth of micro-organisms will become faster and cheaper whilst it permits larger screening operations for improved industrial strains than have been possible to date.
TI Food and Nutrition (www.tifn.nl) is a unique public/private partnership that generates vision on scientific breakthroughs in food and nutrition, resulting in the development of innovative products and technologies that respond to consumer demands for safe, tasty and healthy foods. 'This project, a close collaboration between biotechnologists and nanotechnologists, is a good example of the trans-disciplinary approach we have developed', says Jan Sikkema, programme director at Top Institute Food and Nutrition.