Video-article shows how to purify magnetic bacteria

November 15, 2012
Video-article shows how to purify magnetic bacteria
In this picture, scientists are using bar magnets to isolate magnetotactic bacteria. Credit: Journal of Visualized Experiments

Magnetotactic bacteria, like Magnetospirillum magneticum, have evolved cellular processes that allow them to take up iron molecules to produce magnetic nanocrystals like magnetite. Since they were first discovered and isolated in 1975 by Robert Blakemore, scientists continue to be fascinated by these unique bacteria, whether as a means to isolate biogenic magnetite or to understand the evolutionary advantages of producing these minerals. A new video-article in JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) details a procedure to purify and enrich samples of magnetotactic bacteria from aquatic environments, developed in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Lower at The Ohio State University.

are microorganisms, typically found in stratified water columns or aquatic sediments all over the world. Though many of these bacteria tend to thrive in environments with low levels of oxygen, the defining characteristic they share are small, magnetic, membrane bound of either the iron oxide or the iron sulfide greigite.

Video-article shows how to purify magnetic bacteria
This is an example of magnetotactic bacteria. You can see the magnetic particles on the left side of the cell. Credit: Journal of Visualized Experiments

"These nanocrystals allow the organisms to align themselves with the earth's magnetic field and swim up or down based on the geomagnetic field to find their microenvironments," Dr. Lower explains. "These bacteria are fairly ubiquitous. They can be found all over the world, and interestingly they can be found in from millions of years ago."

These bacteria are a valuable anomaly to the scientific community. Their fossil record gives geologists accurate representations of the Earth's past magnetic field, when combined with carbon dating, and could potentially provide other clues about earth's geological history. The magnetotactic minerals may also have medical or other novel applications. "You can coat these minerals with antibodies and target specific cancer cell lines or heat the magnets with an alternating magnetic field to kill a cancer cell line," says Dr. Lower.

"We decided to publish in JoVE because it will allow a wide variety of scientists to see how easy it is to isolate and enrich these species. We hope the video-protocol will spur other collaborations or new research," Dr. Lower said. The article will be published on November 15, 2012 in JoVE's General section. JoVE acquisition editor Rachelle Baker stated, "We are very excited for this article not only because it is our first featuring magnetotactic bacteria but we believe it will lay a foundation for other groups to build expand upon this work and share their methods with the community, which is the founding principle of JoVE."

Explore further: Bacterium found to have strange magnetic personality

More information: Lower et. al.

Related Stories

Bacterium found to have strange magnetic personality

February 17, 2006

Researchers led by an MIT graduate student have discovered a bacterium that is a magnetic misfit of sorts. Magnetotactic bacteria contain chains of magnetic iron minerals that allow them to orient in the Earth's magnetic ...

LANL develops first genetically engineered 'magnetic' algae

October 19, 2011

LANL scientists have genetically engineered "magnetic" algae to investigate alternative, more efficient harvesting and lipid extraction methods for biofuels. The researchers seek to reduce the cost of algae-based biofuel ...

New bug eats sulfates, makes two kinds of magnet

December 23, 2011

( -- A bacterium recently discovered near Death Valley has some very unusual properties according to a report published in the December 23 issue of Science magazine. While some ‘bugs’ are like migratory ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.