The Hawaiian bobtail squid is a glowing example of aquatic symbiosis. It stands out as a unique cephalopod that lives with a light organ run by a luminescent bacterium, or microbes. The bacterium allows the squid to use light as camouflage against predators.
A team of researchers has received a $550,000 grant by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to study the aquatic symbiotic properties in the squid for the next three years. Jamie Foster, principal investigator and UF/IFAS professor in microbiology and cell science is spearheading the project with Carlos Rinaldi, Dean’s Leadership Professor and chair of the department of chemical engineering, and David P. Arnold, UF’s George Kirkland Engineering Leadership Professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.
At the most basic level, the team will be conducting new cellular research.
To map out the exchange of information between the microbes and the host, Rinaldi will engineer nanoparticles in the form of tiny magnets that can track molecules inside the animal host. These magnets will allow the team to take images using a new biomedical imaging technology called magnetic particle imaging (MPI), distinct from magnetic resonance imaging in that it can precisely and quantitatively track the position of the magnetic nanoparticles. By taking MPI images of the squid, the team will be able to follow the communication that is happening in real time.
Arnold will develop the technology to move the magnets within the squid so the team can build novel magnetic tools that will unlock the mysteries of this micro-symbiosis. He will develop the electrical and magnetic hardware such as the electronics, magnetics, coils, amplifiers, and computer control to apply the magnetic fields to manipulate the magnetically tagged cells.
“Here, we are trying to understand the function and response of specific cells in the symbiosis,” said Arnold. “The instrumentation we develop will be at the forefront of magnetic nano-bioscience.” he said.
The proposed work is enabled by investments by the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering to acquire the state-of-the-art MOMENTUMTM magnetic particle imaging system that will be used to image nanoparticle and cell distribution, said Rinaldi.
By: Lourdes Rodriguez, UF/IFAS Communications