Scientists have inserted a full-color «eye» in bacteria, and taught them to draw

© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina Polarisavenue put eyes in germs and taught them to drawScientists have inserted a full-color «eye» in bacteria, and taught them to draw© Illustration RIA Novosti . Alina Polyanina

The American biotechnologists have created an unusual strain of Escherichia coli, are able to discern three primary colors – red, green and blue – and «draw» them, highlighting the pigments when exposed to light, says the article, published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

«We want to create a system that would allow us to enable and disable dozens of genes inside microbes, irradiating them with light flashes of different colors. This approach will allow us to turn bacteria into factories of substances, the production of which we will be able to turn on and off with the light. This opens the way for more complex bioprogramming,» said Christopher Voigt (Christopher Voigt) from the Massachusetts Institute of technology in Cambridge (USA).

In recent years, scientists actively study and create technologies that allow you to «turn on» and «off» certain genes, or cells with light. To do this, biologists inserted a special light-sensitive proteins in the cell wall and cause them to activate or suppress specific genes inside it with pulses of light.

Similar technology, called optogenetics, and the newly created thermogenetic, especially actively used in the study of the brain. In 2005, Voigt and his colleagues adapted it to work inside the cells of bacteria, having taught the usual E. coli (Escherichia coli) to react to light and produce black pigment. It was told by a geneticist, turned the germs in the black-and-white printer that can «print» images with a resolution of 100 megapixels per square inch.

The next logical step was the transformation of microbes in the color printer. As in the case with a real color laser printers, the implementation of this project demanded a lot of time, and the team of Voigt spent over 10 years creating bacteria capable of seeing three colors and print with three colours.

This microbe, we are told by scientists, is a conventional E. coli, the DNA which is embedded a set of 18 genes complex ways of interacting. Three of them are light-sensitive genes extracted from DNA of several microbes and marine animals and reacting to the rays of the red, blue and green, and the others responsible for «processing» information about the color and the choice of a suitable pigment.

Using these microbes, scientists have «published» several color images using cultures of Escherichia coli and conventional overhead projector, including the MIT logo, a simple tri-color still life and decorative pattern.

The printing process is rather slow – the picture is formed in approximately 18 hours, but as the researchers note, can be accelerated by modifying this package of genes. For example, scientists have added to the system an additional unit that causes the microbe to end produce acetic acid in the presence of light.

This task, it tells Voigt, facilitates that this protein «eyes» of bacteria are modular in design, which you can easily add new light modules, and their associated pigments and other molecules. In the future, as hopes biotechnology, this technology will allow you to turn microbes into a multifunctional «factory», capable of producing dozens of different nutrients.