Colour Me Impressed: Chromatic E. Coli

by Rachel Gertz

We’ve all stared into the toilet bowl with pride a time or two, but imagine you could actually get something useful out of that riveting glance. Designers taking part in the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) have imagined a way to make that happen. They’ve harnessed the power of E. coli that respond to their surroundings with chromatic changes visible to the human eye. This means a future where toxic air turns bright violet, and drinking E. coli yogurt turns your fecal matter turn into a diagnostic rainbow for diseases like colorectal cancer, worms, or salmonella poisoning.

Each BioBrick part contains genes selected from existing organisms spanning the living kingdoms, enabling the bacteria to produce a colour: red, yellow, green, blue, brown or violet. By combining these with other BioBricks, bacteria could be programmed to do useful things, such as indicate whether drinking water is safe by turning red if they sense a toxin.

I’m totally cool with rainbow poo, but I think you all better be prepared for its related art movement. I dare you to follow that rainbow.

Via Laughing Squid