Electrically conductive bacterial nanowires in bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw biofilms

Electromicrobiology Group, J. Craig Venter Institute, San Diego, California.
Oral surgery, oral medicine, oral pathology and oral radiology 01/2013; 115(1):71-78. DOI: 10.1016/j.oooo.2012.08.446
Source: PubMed


Bacterial biofilms play a role in the pathogenesis of bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ). The purpose of this preliminary study was to test the hypothesis that the extracellular filaments observed in biofilms associated with BRONJ contain electrically conductive nanowires.

Study design:
Bone samples of patients affected by BRONJ were evaluated for conductive nanowires by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and conductive probe atomic force microscopy (CP-AFM). We created nanofabricated electrodes to measure electrical transport along putative nanowires.

SEM revealed large-scale multispecies biofilms containing numerous filamentous structures throughout necrotic bone. CP-AFM analysis revealed that these structures were electrically conductive nanowires with resistivities on the order of 20 Ω·cm. Nanofabricated electrodes spaced along the nanowires confirmed their ability to transfer electrons over micron-scale lengths.

Electrically conductive bacterial nanowires to date have been described only in environmental isolates. This study shows for the first time that these nanowires can also be found in clinically relevant biofilm-mediated diseases, such as BRONJ, and may represent an important target for therapy.

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