This movie shows what would happen when bacteria multiply in a confined space. Individual bacteria are color-coded to indicate their orientation to the container walls: from blue (perpendicular) to red (parallel).
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Bacteria, unlike people, get more orderly when they're in large crowds. In this computer simulation, a few E. coli bacteria start out oriented perpendicular to the walls of a container (blue rods). As they multiply, the growing mass arranges into tidy columns parallel to the container walls (red rods). The study sheds light on how cells orient themselves in tight quarters and is especially relevant to understanding biofilms, the high-density bacterial communities associated with lung and ear infections, tooth decay, clogged medical implants, and other health issues. Courtesy of bioengineer Jeff Hasty and physicist Lev Tsimring, both at University of California, San Diego.

Featured in the November 19, 2008, issue of Biomedical Beat.
Full-screen version (MOV, 8.0 MB)

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