One of the 10 winning entries in the 2013 Koch Institute Image Awards, this image shows bacteria that have been engineered to release a co-ordinated burst of protein – a ‘bacterial supernova’ in a sense.
Many bacteria are social creatures: by using a process called quorum sensing, they communicate and alter their behaviours as a group. This intelligent decision-making system led MIT researchers Tal Danino, Jeff Hasty and Sangeeta Bhatia to investigate whether they could “hack” bacteria and use them to treat cancer.
Here, they have rewired a colony of E. coli to produce a burst of fluorescent protein when it reaches a predetermined density. The researchers hope to modify this system and engineer the bacteria to release a co-ordinated burst of drugs at a tumour site.
The Koch Institute Image Awards were established to recognise and publicly display extraordinary visuals captured so that experts and non-scientists alike can glimpse otherwise invisible biological worlds.