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UC Berkeley crack bacteria 'castles'

Using stop-action imaging with high-resolution microscopes, UC Berkeley scientists were able to describe in detail for the first time the "castles" of bacteria that grow in humans and are often the cause of chronic, even fatal infections.

In a paper published in the journal Science on Friday, researcher Veysel Berk outlined his new technique for capturing live snapshots of what is known as "biofilm" - the sticky, sturdy communities of bacteria that can get lodged in human sinuses and lungs and other parts of the body.

Bacteria on their own typically can be killed off easily with antibiotics. But once they make a home in a biofilm, those bacteria are much more difficult to find and attack.

Berk was able to collect images of bacteria first laying down a sticky protein to build the foundation of the biofilm, then dividing into more cells to build up the structure.

He's hoping that the new images will help other scientists identify ways to interfere with the building process - by preventing the first bacterium from laying down glue, for example, or developing drugs to tear down the walls of the castle.

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