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Function-based sequencing technique permits analysis of just a single bacteria cell

Design of the RAGE chip. Credit: by Xu Teng A new function-based sequencing technique using optical tweezers and taking advantage of the properties of gravity is letting researchers analyze bacteria cells one by one. The study, conducted by researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was published in Small on June 9.

Bacteria cells are so tiny that it has been very difficult to analyze just one bacterial cell, or bacterium, at a time. As a result, lots of them, sometimes millions at a time, have to be analyzed simultaneously. This tells us a lot about the group as a whole, but it prevents researchers from being able to investigate the link between a single bacterium’s genotype, or complete set of genes; and its phenotype, or the set of characteristics that result from the interaction of its genes and the environment.

A simple way to think about the distinction between genotype and phenotype is to note that while a single corn plant’s genotype might allow it to grow three feet tall, if not much fertilizer is applied, then the corn plant’s phenotype might be that it only grew to be two […]

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