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Diagnosing and treating bacterial diseases with a simple cartridge assay

NSF Award:

Studying the Structure and Function of Flagella in the Emergent Properties of Bacterial Communities  (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

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The unprecedented scale and speed of a cartridge-based assay will enable key insights regarding how bacteria use chemical signals to colonize and communicate in natural environments. Developed by Douglas Weibel's group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) the simple plastic cartridge allows researchers to assess how chemicals influence bacterial group behavior.

This information will make it possible to predict the collective movement of bacteria, an important step as they adapt to changing environments. It will also expand understanding of how bacteria process important substances such as carbon dioxide and pollutants in the environment. Data from this study will provide strategies for diagnosing and treating bacterial diseases and managing the spread of pollutants.

The simplicity and accessibility of the plastic cartridge assay offers new opportunities to share the project with a diverse audience. Working with the NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at UW, and through the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Teachers program, Weibel and his team are collaborating with local teachers to adapt the assay for seventh-grade biology and chemistry classrooms in Wisconsin.


  • a disposable plastic cartridge identifies bacteria's response to chemical signals
A disposable cartridge identifies bacteria's response to chemical signals. Colored circles indicate different chemical environments.
Douglas B. Weibel, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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