The mission of UNLOCK (to unlock microbial potential) can be compared with the quest for a dream team, like in sports. Once a team is established, we can test and compare its performance under different conditions. This can be done in parallel in the Parallel Cultivation Platform, as we explain in this blog.

By the UNLOCK team / June 7, 2022


Technical difficulty
In the previous blog, we explained how a microbial team can be composed either naturally or synthetically to discover new or unexpected talents with the Biodiscovery Platform. Moreover, we illustrated how team performance could be assessed. In both cases, the approach turns out comparable to sports. Continuing with this metaphor, every team coach or player knows that a team composition is never fixed: A cycling coach would line up a different team for the Giro d’Italia than for the one-day classics in Flanders. Similarly, a soccer coach would pick different players for a friendly match compared to a championship final. Thus, it depends on the condition, which team will perform best in the context of a specific goal. The Parallel Cultivation Platform allows scientists to compare the performance of a microbial team under different conditions.

Testing performance under different conditions

As athletes have to deal with different conditions, in terms of weather, competition from opponents, and pressure, microbes’ performance also depends on different conditions. Think about temperature, pH,  oxygen levels, the available food, the presence of light, and other organisms competing in their environment. We can optimize team composition further by testing the microbes under these various conditions. Subsequently, the talent of some individual microbes might become more  prominent. This results in valuable knowledge for future applications of the microbial team. It also clues how to exchange some team players under certain conditions. It might even further improve our ability to screen for new talent in the Biodiscovery Platform. Eventually, this will unlock the full microbial potential of the team, as well as individual team players.

Comparing different conditions in parallel

Imagine an intensive day of training with a sports team and doing the same exercise repeatedly, each time under slightly different conditions. Luckily, microbes duplicate themselves more efficiently, allowing parallel sessions simultaneously. In fact, the Parallel Cultivation Platform will enable scientists to test various conditions at the same time. Additionally, thanks to the equipment of the platform, natural conditions can be mimicked more accurately: Think about day-night cycles and seasonal variations, as opposed to constant exposure to light or temperature. Similarly,  a sports team has to deal with different (unexpected) circumstances during a sports race. In a test event, it might be good to simulate these conditions as accurately as possible.

Picture of a heart rate monitor. Photo by Ankush Minda via Unsplash
Picture of a wearable for athletes, to monitor heart rate 24/7. Similarly, we can monitor different experimental variables (in parallel) in the Parallel Cultivation Platform. Photo by Ankush Minda via Unsplash.

Monitoring performance 24/7

Another advantage of the Parallel Cultivation Platform, is that the performance of microbes is not only measured afterward. In fact, a combination of built-in sensors allows the monitoring of team performance 24/7 during the test activity. Compare it to the use of smart wearables in sports, where heart rate, blood glucose levels, and body core temperature are measured continuously during the test. This information also allows the researcher to quickly adapt to the conditions if things get out of hand.

Integration with the other platforms

In this blog, we explained we can further optimize a microbial team, by testing and comparing its performance under different conditions. The Parallel Cultivation does, however, not depend only on the Biodiscovery Platform and can also be used for already existing microbial teams. Alternatively, we can combine teams in the Modular Bioreactor Platform, as we will illustrate in the next blog.
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