enGENEious Bentley Talks Quorum Sensing at Oxford

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BioE Professor and Chair William E. Bentley speaking at Oxford.

Fischell Department of Bioengineering professor and Chair William E. Bentley was a featured speaker at enGENEious, a student and postdoc-organized conference held at Christ Church, Oxford University in June 2012. enGENEious highlights the newest advances in the engineering of microbial "factories" designed to create new materials, fuels, drugs, and even biologically-based information storage.

Bentley, who along with members of his research group gained international recognition for their development of in vivo "nanofactories" and "bacterial dirigibles" made from modified E. coli bacteria, was invited to present his work on quorum sensing, a type of intercellular communication in which signaling molecules prompt a group of bacteria to act as a pathogenic group. Bentley's Molecular & Metabolic Engineering Laboratories are turning E. coli into self-guided, targeted biodevices that navigate to the site of a problem and go to work, manufacturing their own signaling molecules that disrupt or control quorum sensing. This technique could stop an infection before it starts without using antibiotics, or encourage positive activity, such as restoring bacterial balance to the digestive tract.

"It was quite an honor to be among the selected speakers from the U.S.," says Bentley. "I'd never been to Oxford before, either. It's just like you'd imagine...the dining hall was right out of Hogwarts!"

Published July 3, 2012