Engineered Ecosystem. Courtesy of Hao Song, Duke University.

"Predator" bacteria (green) surround "prey" bacteria (red) in this petri dish version of the Serengeti. Rather than eating their prey, however, predator cells release a chemical that activates a suicide gene in the prey. Prey cells also release a chemical, but one that promotes survival of the predators. Researchers genetically programmed the cells to "communicate" with each other in this way and function as a synthetic ecosystem. The artificial system acts as an experimental model and can help us understand behaviors in more complex, natural ecosystems. Courtesy of Hao Song, Duke University.

Featured in the June 18, 2008, issue of Biomedical Beat.
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