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Novel Device with 3D-Printed Parts Could Enhance Research on Antibiotics

Researchers from a McMaster University lab have developed a small, black box that could alter the way scientists search for new antibiotics.

The Printed Fluorescence Imaging Box - or PFIbox, in short - has the ability to collect enormous amounts of data that will assist researchers in the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research in their hunt to find new antibiotics.

The box enables researchers to analyze over 6000 samples of bacteria at a given instant of time.

The device uses LED lights to excite fluorescent proteins that occur in bacteria. Subsequently, it wirelessly transfers data to researchers analyzing the way cells respond to antibiotics over time.

The nine structural parts of the PFIbox can be 3D printed within a day, snap together in minutes, and are priced at around $200.

3D printing is allowing us to create tools and instrumentation that simply don’t exist yet,” stated infectious disease researcher Eric Brown, who headed the study on the project, along with Shawn French and Brittney Coutts. “Here, we have designed and built an absolutely cutting-edge lab instrument for about $200. It’s simply game-changing for our work to discover new antibiotics.”

The scientists have made the PFIbox’s code open source and available to anyone who wishes to use them.

We fully expect - in fact, we hope - people take the code for this tool and improve upon it,” stated French. “We want people to have full access to what we think is a very important new development in the battle against superbugs.”

The study was published in the Cell Systems journal on August 29, 2018.

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