Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 10th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Star Builders
17 November 2014

Star Builders

Paris, Jerusalem, Machu Pichu... humans have built some stunning cities in their time. But when it comes to aesthetic colonies, these bacteria surely win the top prize. Originating from the small central circle, Trypanosoma brucei – bacteria responsible for the deadly disease called sleeping sickness – sweep outwards together like sun rays across the nutrient-rich jelly. Although individual cells they move in perfect coordination to produce long, elegant tentacles. Sticking together is essential if they want to successfully establish themselves in their host, the tsetse fly. Infection is a two-stage process, the first of which involves the parasites moving en masse through the fly's gut, just as they do in the laboratory. The action is so similar that studying it in this artificial setting may shed light as to how they come to infect a living host; an insight that may help to undermine their beautiful yet deadly colonies.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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