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Researchers create living 'neon signs' composed of millions of glowing bacteria
Date:12/19/2011

n different ways to different concentrations by varying the frequency of their blinking pattern, they can provide a continual update on how dangerous a toxin or pathogen is at any one time."

"This development illustrates how basic, quantitative knowledge of cellular circuitry can be applied to the new discipline of synthetic biology," said James Anderson, who oversees synthetic biology grants at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partially funded the research. "By laying the foundation for the development of new devices for detecting harmful substances or pathogens, Dr. Hasty's new sensor points the way toward translation of synthetic biology research into technology for improving human health."

The development of the techniques to make the sensor and the flashing display built on the work of scientists in the Division of Biological Sciences and School of Engineering, which they published in two previous Nature papers over the past four years. In the first paper, the scientists demonstrated how they had developed a way to construct a robust and tunable biological clock to produce flashing, glowing bacteria. In the second paper, published in 2010, the researchers showed how they designed and constructed a network, based on a communication mechanism employed by bacteria, that enabled them to synchronize all of the biological clocks within a bacterial colony so that thousands of bacteria would blink on and off in unison.

"Many bacteria species are known to communicate by a mechanism known as quorum sensing, that is, relaying between them small molecules to trigger and coordinate various behaviors," said Hasty, explaining how the synchronization works within a bacterial colony. "Other bacteria are known to disrupt this communication mechanism by degrading these relay molecules."

But the researchers found the same method couldn't be used to instantaneously synchronize millions of bacteria from
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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