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Simulation of bacteria growing towards a stressful environment like an immune attack and how they respond

31 May 2023

Breaking Ranks

Bacteria invading the human body have numbers on their side. They divide rapidly, so are often able to overwhelm our early immune defences. In this computer simulation, ranks of a bacterial army march onwards and upwards into a hostile, and stressful environment. Cells on the front line react to this oxidative stress by producing 'defensive' proteins (highlighted in bright blue), slowing down their cell division. This heroic act shields the rest of the troops as they continue to divide, move and infect the tissue. The simulation is based on a combination of machine learning and microscopy of living Escherichia coli – helping researchers to first understand and later predict the different behaviours inside groups of living cells. Working out how to break these bacterial barriers could help to ward off harmful 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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