About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us

New Technique can Help Determine What Microbes Actually Do Eat

by Rishika Gupta on June 2, 2018 at 12:44 PM
Font : A-A+

 New Technique can Help Determine What Microbes Actually Do Eat

Have you ever wondered what microbes actually eat? Well even the researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Calgary thought so too, and so they have devised a new way to determine what food do microbes eat. The findings of this study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers use a mass spectrometer to measure with very high accuracy the mass of molecules derived from the microbes in a community. Then they use a newly developed software program that allows them to link microbes with their substrates.


The basis for connecting microbe and substrate are so-called carbon stable isotope ratios - the ratios between naturally occurring forms of carbon with different masses. Nature contains both carbon-12, the most abundant form, and carbon-13, which has one more neutron than carbon-12. Each material has a very specific ratio of these two isotopes, which essentially can be used as the fingerprint or signature of the material. The new algorithm links the carbon isotope ratios of the substrates that are available to microbes in a given environment to the ratios found in the microbes themselves.

Manuel Kleiner, an NC State assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and corresponding author of a paper that reports the research, says that understanding microbial communities is necessary to better comprehend animal and plant health and disease, as well as important environmental processes such as decomposition of organic matter and nutrient cycling in soils and oceans.

"Our method is based on the concept that you are what you eat," Kleiner said. "If there is a food source with a specific isotopic signature and we find a microbe with that same specific isotopic signature, we can make the connection between the two. A similar technique is actually used by archeological anthropologists, who can determine the type of diet a person ate by analyzing isotope ratios from hair or bone fragments."

Human hair is crucial for the technique to work. Kleiner surprised his hairdresser by bagging his hair after a haircut.

"We have to correct for a certain error occurring during mass spectrometry by using a calibration standard. As it turns out, a human hair is an excellent material to calibrate our instrument," Kleiner said.

To test the new algorithm, the researchers took 20 pure culture samples and showed that the software provided measurements consistent with mass spectrometry standards. The researchers also put together complex samples with different microorganisms and tested for individual signatures from different species within the complex community. Finally, the researchers studied a gutless marine worm that hosts a number of bacteria and used the software to test the metabolism of this symbiotic relationship.

Kleiner added that all the data from the study is publicly available, so other researchers can test and utilize the new software.

Source: Eurekalert

News A-Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Printed Temperature Sensors help with Continuous Temperature Monitoring
Health Benefits of Giloy
Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021 - It's time to RISE
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Recommended Reading
Microbes can Collaborate With Host to Prevent Infections
Bacteria can work together with its host to fight infections, according to a recent study....
Neutrophils Trap Microbes With Nets Made of DNA
In your bloodstream, there are immune cells called neutrophils that, when faced with a pathogenic .....
Gut Microbes Reduce Irinotecan Toxicity in Colorectal Cancer
The composition of a person's microbiome influence the reactivation of Irinotecan given for ......
Healthy Gut With Diverse Microbes Indicate Healthy Aging
The diversity of the microbes in the gut may not change due to aging and may indicate the overall .....

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use