Team finds new type of bacteria
Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm in News
A team of researchers from USC and Aarhus University in Denmark has discovered bacteria with the ability to transmit electrons over large distances. They published their discovery in the science journal Nature on Wednesday.
They found that Desulfobulbus bacterial cells have the ability to transmit electrons as far as 1 centimeter, or thousands of cell lengths away, as part of their respiration and ingestion processes.
âTo move electrons over these enormous distances in an entirely biological system would have been thought impossible,â Moh El-Naggar, assistant professor of physics at USC and co-author of the paper, said in a release.
Research began after Aarhus scientists discovered an electric current on the sea floor several years ago. The experiments conducted by USC and Aarhus researchers found that the apparently inexplicable currents were created by unknown multicellular bacteria that function as living power cables.
The cells survive through a chemical reaction: the cells that live in an oxygen-deficient zone oxidize hydrogen sulfide, a process that provides oxygen for other cells on the top.
âYou have feeder cells on one end and breather cells on the other, allowing the whole living cable to survive,â El-Naggar said in a release.
Researchers from both universities collaborated on physical evaluations of this long-distance electron transfer. El-Naggar and his colleagues had previously used some of the methods he used in his research, including scanning-probe microscopy and nanofabrication.
El-Naggar was recently named one of the Popular Science magazineâs article âTen Young Geniuses Shaking Up Science Today.â He collaborated on the paper with Lars Peter Nielsen from the Aarhus University Department of Bioscience. The paper was funded by the European Research Council, the Danish National Research Foundation, the Danish Foundation for Independent Research and the German Max Planck Society.