Bacteria biofilms are ubiquitous in our world, living in various conditions that allow bacteria to build up, such as sewer pipes or even our own teeth. New studies have shown that bacteria not only have intelligent systems for communication but also have the ability to remember things.
Biofilms are ancient, with evidence of biofilms dating back to 3.25 billion years ago. While they are able to grow on many different surfaces, these surfaces all share a commonality: they’re wet. Biofilms to humans are a cause
of concern regarding our health since biofilms can grow on implanted medical devices, which can lead to infections. Bacterial biofilms can also cause infective endocarditis and pneumonia. Furthermore, bacteria that are within a biofilm are also more resistant to antibiotics and other disinfectants and are considered to be 1,500 times more resistant.
Biofilms have recently been recognized as an advanced community, with the discovery that biofilm cells are organized in intricate designs that plants and animals have been known to use. Süel, a UC San Diego Professor of Molecular Biology, states that this concept of cell patterning is much more ancient than they once thought. This new discovery opens the possibility that this segmentation of cells may go back to over a billion years, and was not just a new emergence from plants and animals.
As found through experiments and mathematical models, the study revealed that the biofilms involved used a “clock and wavefront mechanism,” which sophisticated organisms such as plants, flies, and humans use. A “wave” of nutrient depletion moves across cells, which dresses a molecular clock inside each cell that creates a pattern of distinct cell types as the biofilm expands and consumes nutrients. This breakthrough identified the circuit that the biofilm’s ability to generate community concentric rings of genetic patterns.
As seen in AP Biology, the formation of a biofilm is an example of Cell Communication. With unicellular organisms, they are able to communicate with each other to signal for the availability of food, identify mating types, or detect others for coordinated behavior. For bacteria, they utilize Quorum Sensing, in which they secrete small molecules that are detected by other bacteria. If they sense the population is close enough to perform group behavior, they will begin to do so.
This new discovery opens many doors to various research fields, due to the fact that biofilms are prevalent in our everyday lives. From medicine to the food industry to the military, these biofilm systems can be used to test and investigate the in-depth aspects of the clock and wavefront mechanism. Plants and vertebrate systems are harder to study, but bacteria aren’t because they “offer more experimentally accessible systems that could provide new insights for the field of development,” Süel states.
Personally, I am very interested in how these studies are going to be used, specifically in a “military” field. Furthermore, do you think there is more groundbreaking information regarding bacteria that can help us put the pieces together for life before humans? Let me know in the comments below and thank you for your time!