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Journal Article

Rectification of Bacterial Diffusion in Microfluidic Labyrinths


Zaburdaev,  Vasily
Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Max Planck Society;
Department of Biology, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg;

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Weber, A., Bahrs, M., Alirezai, Z., Zhang, X., Beta, C., & Zaburdaev, V. (2019). Rectification of Bacterial Diffusion in Microfluidic Labyrinths. Frontiers in Physics, 7: 148. doi:10.3389/fphy.2019.00148.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-BC6E-C
In nature as well as in the context of infection and medical applications, bacteria often have to move in highly complex environments such as soil or tissues. Previous studies have shown that bacteria strongly interact with their surroundings and are often guided by confinements. Here, we investigate theoretically how the dispersal of swimming bacteria can be augmented by microfluidic environments and validate our theoretical predictions experimentally. We consider a system of bacteria performing the prototypical run-and-tumble motion inside a labyrinth with square lattice geometry. Narrow channels between the square obstacles limit the possibility of bacteria to reorient during tumbling events to an area where channels cross. Thus, by varying the geometry of the lattice it might be possible to control the dispersal of cells. We present a theoretical model quantifying diffusive spreading of a run-and-tumble random walker in a square lattice. Numerical simulations validate our theoretical predictions for the dependence of the diffusion coefficient on the lattice geometry. We show that bacteria moving in square labyrinths exhibit enhanced dispersal as compared to unconfined cells. Importantly, confinement significantly extends the duration of the phase with strongly non-Gaussian diffusion, when the geometry of channels is imprinted in the density profiles of spreading cells. Finally, in good agreement with our theoretical findings, we observe the predicted behaviors in experiments with E. coli bacteria swimming in a square lattice labyrinth created in a microfluidic device. Altogether, our comprehensive understanding of bacterial dispersal in a simple two-dimensional labyrinth makes the first step toward the analysis of more complex geometries relevant for real world applications.