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The aim of this study was to utilize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image structural heterogeneity and mass transport inside a biofilm which was too thick for photon based imaging. MRI was used to map water diffusion and image the transport of the paramagnetically tagged macromolecule, Gd-DTPA, inside a 2.5 mm thick cyanobacterial biofilm. The structural heterogeneity of the biofilm was imaged at resolutions down to 22 × 22 μm, enabling the impact of biofilm architecture on the mass transport of both water and Gd-DTPA to be investigated. Higher density areas of the biofilm correlated with areas exhibiting lower relative water diffusion coefficients and slower transport of Gd-DTPA, highlighting the impact of biofilm structure on mass transport phenomena. This approach has potential for shedding light on heterogeneous mass transport of a range of molecular mass molecules in biofilms.


Baheerathan Ramanan, William M Holmes, William T Sloan, Vernon R Phoenix. Magnetic resonance imaging of mass transport and structure inside a phototrophic biofilm. Current microbiology. 2013 May;66(5):456-61

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PMID: 23306351

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