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Film Time

Bacteria found to organise in a similar way to vertebrate cellular patterning - insight into tackling biofilms

21 January 2022

Film Time

Genes in developing animals and plants switch on or off – like paint brushes coming down and up on a page, they express different traits in different places at different times. Gradually an overall picture emerges. Such developmental ‘clocks’ define how plants and animal tissues organise and communicate in the overall organism. Here, researchers find similar mechanisms in an organism billions of years older. These Bacillus subtilis bacteria develop a pattern of concentric rings (artificially coloured here), each made of thousands of single bacterial cells and contributing to a thriving communal colony called a biofilm. Using a combination of mathematical modelling and experiments, researchers examine the genes helping to segment the bacteria, finding some rings serve as sites for the birth of new spores. Learning more about the underlying clock, and the evolution of development, may help in tackling stubborn biofilms in hospitals and kitchens, limiting the spread of infections.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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