Tracking the stochastic growth of bacterial populations in micro uidic droplets

Daniel Taylor, Nia Verdon, Peter Lomax, Rosalind J. Allen, S. Titmuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial growth in microuidic droplets is relevant in biotechnology, in microbial ecology, and in understanding stochastic population dynamics in small populations. However, it has proved challenging to automate measurement of absolute bacterial numbers within droplets, forcing the use of proxy measures for population size. Here we present a micro uidic device and imaging protocol
that allows high-resolution imaging of thousands of droplets, such that individual bacteria stay in the focal plane and can be counted automatically. Using this approach, we track the stochastic growth of hundreds of replicate Escherichia coli populations within droplets. We find that, for early
times, the statistics of the growth trajectories obey the predictions of the Bellman-Harris model, in which there is no inheritance of division time. Our approach should allow further testing of models for stochastic growth dynamics, as well as contributing to broader applications of droplet-based bacterial culture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2022


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