Sunday, 13 May 2018

Making intricate images with bacterial communities


Working with light and genetically engineered bacteria, researchers from Stanford University are able to shape the growth of bacterial communities. From polka dots to stripes to circuits, they can render intricate designs overnight. The new method is called biofilm lithography.

The technique relies on E. coli bacteria they have genetically engineered to secrete a sticky protein in response to a particular wavelength of blue light. When they shine the appropriate wavelength light in the desired pattern on a culture dish of modified bacteria, the bacteria stick to the lit areas, forming a biofilm in the shape of the pattern. The researchers call their technique biofilm lithography for its similarity to lithography used in making electronic circuits.

Other techniques for patterning bacterial communities exist, including depositing them with an inkjet printer or pre-patterning the culture surface with chemicals that bias bacterial growth in specific areas. However, biofilm lithography has the benefit of speed, simplicity, higher resolution and compatibility with a variety of surface environments including closed microfluidic devices.

See:

Xiaofan Jin, Ingmar H. Riedel-Kruse. Biofilm Lithography enables high-resolution cell patterning via optogenetic adhesin expressionProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201720676 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720676115

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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