A kitchen sponge is a better incubator for diverse bacteria than a laboratory petri dish, according to researchers. Rather, the trapped debris is the structure of the sponge itself.
In a series of experiments, scientists show that various microbial species may alter one another''s population dynamics based on key factors such as complexity and size. Some bacteria thrive in a diverse community while others prefer a solitary existence. Moreover, a physical environment that allows both individuals to live their best lives increases the quality of living experience.
Soil provides the ideal mixed-housing environment, as well as a kitchen sponge.
According to Duke biomedical engineers, their findings suggest that industries that use bacteria to perform certain tasks, such as cleaning up pollution or producing commercial goods, should consider structural environments.
The National Science Foundation (Natura Chemical Biology) sponsored findings are published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
"Bacteria are just as individuals living through the pandemic; some feel it difficult to be isolated while others prosper," said Lingchong You, a biomedical engineer at Duke. "We''ve demonstrated that in a complex community with both positive and negative interactions, there is an intermediate amount of integration that will greatly enhance its overall coexistence."
Microbial communities are divided in varying degrees in nature. Soil provides many nooks and crannies for varying populations to grow without much interaction from their neighbors. Same applies to individual droplets of water on the leaves.
When humans dump several bacterial species together into a structureless goop to produce goods, such as alcohol, biofuel, and medications, it''s usually on a plate or even in a vat. In their experiments, You and his laboratory demonstrate why these industrial actions might be appropriate to take a structural approach in their manufacturing practices.
"As it turns out, a sponge is a very straightforward way to use multilevel portioning to enhance the overall microbial community," You said. "Maybe it''s a really dirty thing -- the sponge''s structure makes a perfect home for microbes."