At home in the gurgling currents of our guts, bacteria love to swim. Taking full advantage, scientists created this bank of bacterially-powered motors, which is also a bit like a fun pool for microbes. Each outer circle is a ring of tiny curved ramps. Swimming up at high speed, E. coli bacteria fly off like children on a flume, landing in the inner rings, which they push around. Tilting the ramps ensures the bacteria can only push the motors anti-clockwise. Scientists could use these micromachines to help deliver drugs or support life inside human tissues, but for now they’re testing ways to control the speed of the motors by controlling how fast the bacteria swim. These particular bacteria are genetically engineered to produce fluorescence, making them easy to spot later in the video, hard at work, but probably having a lot of fun too.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.