After the December 2009 'Bacteria towing Santa's wagon', this is the ultimate example of life-imitating art. Millions of E. coli bacteria glowing together. Biologists and bioengineers at UC San Diego constructed this remarkable living display by engineering the biological clocks of bacterial cells to fluoresce together like blinking light bulbs. And they synchronized thousands of these blinking bacteria colonies so that millions of them would glow ON and OFF in unison.
The neon bulbs that make up this glowing displays are chambers within tiny microfluidic chips each one containing some 5,000 bacteria. Each bacteria is genetically engineered with fluorescent proteins attached to the biological clocks, and like the single-dots pixels in your computer and tv monitors, each of these microfluidic chambers form what the researchers describes in a recent Nature publication as the ‘biopixel’. The scientists made different versions of these flashing displays: the smallest is done by assembling together 500 biopixels in a microfluidic chip composed of 2.5 millions flashing bacteria, but the bigger display contains already 13,000 biopixels. Do you imagine recharging your iPad with some LB broth?
Original research reference: Prindle et al., A sensing array of radically coupled genetic biopixels. 2011 Nature Advanced Online Publication doi:10.1038/nature10722
Interview at Sciencedaily.com