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

thousands of colonies.

"If you have a bunch of cells oscillating, the signal propagation time is too long to instantaneously synchronize 60 million other cells via quorum sensing," said Hasty. But the scientists discovered that each of the colonies emit gases that, when shared among the thousands of other colonies within a specially designed microfluidic chip, can synchronize all of the millions of bacteria in the chip. "The colonies are synchronized via the gas signal, but the cells are synchronized via quorum sensing. The coupling is synergistic in the sense that the large, yet local, quorum communication is necessary to generate a large enough signal to drive the coupling via gas exchange," added Hasty.

Graduate students Arthur Prindle, Phillip Samayoa and Ivan Razinkov designed the microfluidic chips, which for the largest ones, contain 50 to 60 million bacterial cells and are about the size of a paper clip or a microscope cover slip. The smaller microfluidic chips, which contain approximately 2.5 million cells, are about a tenth of the size of the larger chips.

Each of the blinking bacterial colonies comprise what the researchers call a "biopixel," an individual point of light much like the pixels on a computer monitor or television screen. The larger microfluidic chips contain about 13,000 biopixels, while the smaller chips contain about 500 pixels.

Hasty said he believes that within five years, a small hand-held sensor could be developed that would take readings of the oscillations from the bacteria on disposable microfluidic chips to determine the presence and concentrations of various toxic substances and disease-causing organisms in the field.
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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