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Felix Moser / AP

Researchers at MIT have engineered bacteria to sense red, green, and blue light — and then create a picture of what they've "seen," like the arrangement of fruit pictured above, by expressing pigments in those colors.

"At the most fundamental level, we've given E. Coli the ability to detect different kinds of light and then compose an image," says genetic engineer Felix Moser. "It's a demonstration that synthetic biology tools have come a long way in the last decade."

Synthetic biologists designed and custom built new genetic parts for bacterial cells that create: light-detecting proteins, a circuit to navigate and leverage the cell's mechanisms for turning genes on and off, a capacitor of sorts to regulate the energy burden being placed on the cell when it expresses these different proteins, and enzymes that actually produce the pigments.

Then, with the 1970s' finest slide projector technology, they projected an image onto a plate of bacteria and, the next morning, the bacteria had recreated the image they'd "seen."

Beyond bacteria with red-green-blue vision, precisely directed light could conceivably be used to control the production of chemicals or vaccines, essentially turning bacteria into optimized manufacturing facilities.

Go deeper

28 mins ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief framework as a basis for jumpstarting negotiations.

Why it matters: The framework, introduced by a group of bipartisan senators on Tuesday, calls for significantly less funding than Pelosi had previously demanded — a sign that Democrats are ready to further compromise as millions of Americans endure economic hardship.