"Quorum sensing" rocks. No, it's not about trying to figure out if there are enough people at your homeowner's association meeting to vote to outlaw large makeshift greenhouses on the front lawn..."quorum sensing" is one of the keys to a new genetic clock that bioengineering graduate students from the Jacobs School (Tal Danino and Octavio Mondragon) helped create. Quorum sensing has to do with engineered bacteria "talking" to each other and then blinking in unison. This group blink is the next big step in a long line of research breakthroughs that could one day lead to bacteria that serve as sensors that blink when a poison appears in the environment.
Read the full UC San Diego press release (written by my colleague Kim McDonald) here...the first few paragraphs are pasted below:
Researchers at UC San Diego who last year genetically engineered bacteria to keep track of time by turning on and off fluorescent proteins within their cells have taken another step toward the construction of a programmable genetic sensor. The scientists recently synchronized these bacterial “genetic clocks” to blink in unison and engineered the bacterial genes to alter their blinking rates when environmental
Their latest achievement, detailed in a paper published in the January 21 issue of the journal Nature, is a crucial step in creating genetic sensors that might one day provide humans with advance information about temperature, poisons and other potential hazards in the environment by monitoring changes in the bacterium’s blinking rates. Watch a video showing the UCSD team’s blinking genetic clocks here.
“Programming living cells is one defining goal of the new field of synthetic biology,” said Jeff Hasty, associate professor of biology and bioengineering at UCSD who headed the research team with Lev Tsimring, associate director of UCSD’s BioCircuits Institute.