Cell Factories: A Matter of Life or Death

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering

Abstract

This discipline hopping project is proposed on the basis of mutual interest of the three proposers with the aim of applying controlled hydrodynamic conditions to biological fermentations for precise control of the cell environment. Traditionally, bacteria are grown in incubated batch shake flasks within the research laboratory. As the bacterial cells grow, the nutrients within the growth media are consumed and toxic waste products accumulate: cell death ensues. With both fermenters and shake flasks it is possible to supplement the media with fresh nutrients, however it is not possible to remove the waste products. We propose to develop a novel serial capillary bioreactor which affords the possibility of delivering fresh nutrients to immobilised cells whilst removing waste products, detrimental to growth. We propose to study biotransformations mediated by microbes within a capillary reactor, examine the growth of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas fluorescens within a controlled microfluidic environment, and investigate gene promoter switching. Knowledge transfer is essential to the success of the hop: RJMG will gain experience of the fundamentals of both single and multiphase fluid mechanics, as well as the latest developments in visualisation and modelling for the design and optimisation of controlled flow environments. MJS and SPD will gain experience in cell growth and maintainance, and in the use of cells in biotransformations. This introduction to microbiology and biological chemistry including methods of media and instrument sterilisation, media preparation, and cell handling will provide a background understanding from which to approach the reactor design. Our aim is to establish a substantial long term collaboration that bridges the chemistry-chemical engineering interface and that will have the value-added effect of pump-priming new areas of research of both academic and industrial relevance.

Publications


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Tsoligkas AN (2011) Engineering biofilms for biocatalysis. in Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology
 
Description Engineered Biofilm Catalysts BBSRC BB/I006834/1
Amount £891,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BBSRC BB/I006834/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2011 
End 08/2014