Bioluminescent Billboards

Scientists at UC San Diego have made a bioluminescent bacterial billboard. They call it a “living neon sign composed of millions of bacterial cells that periodically fluoresce in unison like blinking light bulbs.” Making it all work “involved attaching a fluorescent protein to the biological clocks of the bacteria, synchronizing the clocks of the thousands of bacteria within a colony, then synchronizing thousands of the blinking bacterial colonies to glow on and off in unison.”

These are referred to as biopixels.

So could this vision of a bioluminescent metropolis be far off? UC San Diego suggests that their “flashing bacterial signs are not only a visual display of how researchers in the new field of synthetic biology can engineer living cells like machines, but will likely lead to some real-life applications.” Surely it would not take much work—even if only as a media stunt—to make a full-scale functioning prototype of a bioluminescent streetlight? Or a bioluminescent bathroom nightlight for your kids?

But, then, of course, the inevitable escape from domestication, when invasive bioluminescent organisms, from genetically-modified kudzu and street weeds to super-bright worms and bacterial mats, conquer the city.

(Via Wired UK).