Bacterial photography

Posted on July 17, 2012

When we think in bacteria, one of the less probable thing we could imagine would be to take photos with them, right? I’m not referring to take photos of bacteria, but to take photos using bacteria.

Using photo-sensitive bacteria, it is possible to make different patterns. The extreme sensitivity to light of some strains of bacteria, both natural and engineered ones,  make this possible. The position of the bacteria in the agar plate in response to light patters allow the researchers to “draw” with bacteria.

Also, we can re-create photographys with the bacteria. Simply by put a normal black and white photo between a light source and a plate with bacteria, they will move concentrating themselves in the shadow zones, where less light was able to get through the photography, getting a high resolution copy of the photo. To put this an understandable context, a photography made by bacteria can reach a resolution of 100 megapixels per square inch, that is 10 times higher than a high-resolution printer.

Portrait of the UT Austin/UCSF Synthetic Biology team. The left panel shows the projected image of the students and professors from The University of Texas at Austin and UCSF who participated in the project, and the right panel shows the resulting bacterial photo.

The practical applications of these advances are not only related to photography, and they would potentially contribute to the creation of human tissue, designing cells for this purpose. Other practical applications will be in involved on drug delivery inside the body and new electronic devices, where biology is starting to get into. The researchers of the University of Texas are also working in what they call “light cables”, which are biogeochemical patches operated by these photosensible bacteria.

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