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Dr. Bonnie Bassler

Read about Bonnie Bassler, Ph.D., in the October 2004 issue.

Bacterial Geneticist
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ

Bacteria aren’t the silent, asocial creatures biologists once thought. Instead, they use a communications system that allows them to detect when they’ve reached a critical mass and organize for a group attack.

Geneticist Bonnie Bassler studies this phenomenon, which is called quorum sensing. She’s discovered that each strain of bacteria communicates with its own chemical vocabulary but that there’s also a universal language understood across species. By learning to interpret and block these signals, Bassler hopes to thwart the bugs causing ailments from tuberculosis to tooth decay.

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This page last reviewed on July 19, 2011