Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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19 December 2017

Power Cells

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

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