New techniques for improved isolation and culturability of marine organisms
The marine environment is potentially a rich source for the discovery of new species of microorganisms that produce novel bioactives. A recurrent problem, however, is that many of the microorganisms that are present in the marine environment are currently unculturable. The EC FP7 Macumba project, with 23 partners in 11 countries, aims to address this problem by developing novel methods for the isolation and culture of microorganisms from the marine environment. The approach taken by us in Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is one based on micromanipulation, in which single cells are diverted from a stream through a microchannel using laser tweezers, electrokinetic approaches (e.g. dielectrophoresis), or optoelectronic approaches. Following isolation, aggregates with well defined architectures will be built with specific numbers of cells of the same or different species. Cells will either be immobilised on a surface by crosslinking or in a gel, or allowed to remain mobile but confined in microbioreactors. Nutrients will be provided through membranes or through microchannels; interactions between cells in different microchambers will be encouraged to promote culturability.