Chanting the Change

Listening to Bioluminescent Bacteria

by Ritwik Kaikini

Ritwik Kaikini (MA’ 18) and Brian Merlo (BE’ 19) presented one of the iterations of the project, which is now leading its research pathway into diagnosing a bacteria’s life cycle phase just by listening, instead of seeing. During the presentation, Ritwik explained that Woody Hastings—who was one of the founding fathers of the field of circadian biology—during his experiments with bacteria Aliivibrio Fischeri and Vibrio Harveyi, concluded that these bioluminescent bacteria “made light only when they had high cell density, they made no light when there was low cell density.” Pursuing research to determine why this happens, Dr. Bonnie Bassler, a molecular biologist, discovered that the time of light generation and the phenomenon of bioluminescence is closely related to genes. She explained the concept of quorum sensing, where each bacterium votes based on their nutrient availability and depending on the votes, these bacteria decide to manifest genes into certain forms of behaviors like bioluminescence, virulence or bio-film formation. Continue reading “Chanting the Change”