Continued from blinking bacteria page...

The Supernova is an image I created when investigating the spatial and temporal dynamics of the synchronized genetic clock circuit (Research or Danino et al. Nature 2010).  The experiment started by loading a single bacteria into a microfluidic device and capturing images every few minutes to watch the dynamics of the growing colony develop in three-dimensions.  At this scale, the colony initially produces a synchronized burst when it reaches a critical density (as seen in the picture below) and then radially expands and produces travelling waves of fluorescence (see movie below).  This was one of my favorite experiments during my Ph.D., and since it looked like an exploding star, it became known as the "Supernova."  

The Supernova image won a BioEASI award, was shown in DK publishing's book "Big Ideas that Changed the World", and was displayed at the Koch Institute galleries at MIT.  For my Ph.D. defense, a friend of mine (Olivia Lin, Atiliay) who is a cake designer made us a Supernova cake (below).   The Supernova is also featured as a weapon in the bacteria based video-game Syndemic.  

The Supernova  

The Supernova  

The "Supernova" Experiment. From the paper "A synchronized quorum of genetic clock". Nature 2010. Danino, et al. Hasty Lab

In this video, I explain the science behind the Supernova image.

One might imagine a bacterium as a simple, solitary cell doing all it can to survive and reproduce. But many bacteria are social creatures; by using a process called quorum sensing, they communicate and alter their behaviors as a group. This intelligent decision-making system inspired MIT researchers to ask an unusual question: can we “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 coordinated burst of drugs at a tumor site.  Source: Koch Institute Gallery

One might imagine a bacterium as a simple, solitary cell doing all it can to survive and reproduce. But many bacteria are social creatures; by using a process called quorum sensing, they communicate and alter their behaviors as a group. This intelligent decision-making system inspired MIT researchers to ask an unusual question: can we “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 coordinated burst of drugs at a tumor site.  Source: Koch Institute Gallery