Fluorescing Living Neon Sign is Created

Scientists from UC San Diego have created a living neon sign composed of millions of bacterial cells that periodically fluoresce in unison like blinking light bulbs. Biologists and bioengineers achieved to synchronize the biological clocks of the bacteria to they will be glowing in unison. Using the same method of flashing signs, researchers have generated a simple bacterial sensor capable of detecting low levels of arsenic. The bacteria is very sensitive to the environmental pollutants and organisms, scientists assume that this approach could be also used for designing low cost bacterial biosensors capable of detecting an array of heavy metal pollutants and disease-causing organisms. And since the sensor is composed of living bacteria, it can adapt  to the changes in the presence or amount of the toxins over time.

Bacteria colonies researchers called “biopixels” much like the pixels on a monitor or television screen. The smallest created microfluidic chips contain 500 biopixels, while the largest one contains 13,000 biopixels. According to Jeff Hasty, professor of biology and bioengineering at UC San Diego, this kind of living sensors allows for continuously monitoring a given sample over long periods of time. He also believes, that within five years, a small hand-held bacteria sensor could be created that would take readings of the oscillations from the bacteria on disposable microfluidic chips. This may be used in determining the presence and concentrations of various toxic substances and disease-causing organisms in the field. According to scientists, flashing bacterial signs will not only show the ways of manipulating the living cells, but will also lead to the real-life applications.

source: www.earthsky.org