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Many bugs make light work

Many bugs make light work. University of the West of England, Bristol
From top left: Dr Robin Thorn, Professor Darren Reynolds, Dr Gareth Robinson, Dr Dann Turner, Professor Vyv Salisbury, Dr Elizabeth Anderson. Image: University of the West of England, Bristol

The team

From the University of the West of England, Bristol:

  • Professor Vyv Salisbury
  • Professor Darren Reynolds
  • Dr Gareth Robinson
  • Dr Elizabeth Anderson
  • Dr Robin Thorn
  • Dr Dann Turner

The science behind the exhibit

Our exhibit is about using bacteria that produce their own light, as tiny biosensors to look directly at the way living organisms respond to chemical and physical treatments. Light production, or bioluminescence, occurs naturally in a few species of bacteria. We have genetically modified other key bacteria with light producing (lux) genes to test the effectiveness of decontamination and antibiotic treatments. Our big challenge is to use bioluminescent bacterial biosensors in a single blood test to predict leukaemia patients’ response to a range of chemotherapy drugs. This rapid test will allow the best treatment for each patient to be selected.

About the exhibit

We will use live bioluminescent bacteria to engage the audience. We have a blackout tent (the UWE BugBooth) where visitors can view agar plates of glowing bacteria and add household antibacterial products to observe how rapidly the biosensor light level is reduced. Visitors will activate glowsticks to demonstrate how luminescence is produced and press a button to add oxygen to a bacterial culture to see the increase in light.


Bioluminescent bacteria at UWE  

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Friends in low places

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