There is strength in numbers. Being in the middle of a heaving crowd can feel like it’s taken on a life of its own. Crowd dynamics occur among microbes too. The microbial biofilm, a blanket of millions of microbes, is responsible for many persistent infections such as gingivitis and gonorrhoea. These germs work together to form an energy-efficient layer that is more resistant to damage than their free-floating counterparts. Their power in numbers can be turned to our advantage, by engineering their genes to produce useful products such as drugs and fuel. To maximise this potential, computational biologists are now unravelling their group dynamics. Growth patterns of Escherichia coli bacteria (pictured) have been successfully predicted by combining 3D models of E.coli cells with models for the genetic and chemical pathways that drive these communities.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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