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Computing Systems

Bacteria Blast Off
By Alison Davis
Posted April 2007

In this computer model, a Listeria bacterium propels itself through an infected cell by stimulating the growth of cellular filaments (yellow and red) at the cell's surface. Jonathan Alberts, Susanne Rafelski, Garrett Odell
In this computer model simulation External link, a Listeria bacterium propels itself through an infected cell by stimulating the growth of cellular filaments (yellow and red) at the cell's surface.
Credit: Jonathan Alberts, Susanne Rafelski, Garrett Odell

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one . . . BLAST OFF!

While this object might look like a rocket blasting through space, it's really a fake bacterium jetting around a virtual cell. It represents Listeria, a type of bacteria best known for causing food poisoning.

Computational biologist Jonathan Alberts and mathematical biologist Garrett Odell at the University of Washington's Center for Cell Dynamics in Friday Harbor created it to study how the bacterium moves around the cells it infects, ultimately making you sick to your stomach.

By combining experimental data with computer-based approaches, Alberts and Odell have created virtual models of Listeria that show it moving through time. This more complete picture may enable the researchers to identify new ways to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Learn about related research

This page last reviewed on April 22, 2011