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SciShots: Modeling for the masses

New tool helps scientists see how E. coli finds its center


1 min read

Sometimes in science, seeing is believing. A new web-based tool from researchers at the Allen Institute for Cell Science is bringing visualization of complex biological processes to anyone who needs it. Simularium Viewer, described this week in a publication in the journal Nature Methods, aims to lower the barriers to using computational models to better understand cells or pieces of cells. This movie, generated by Simularium Viewer using a model and data from researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, shows a single E. coli bacterial cell as it’s getting ready to divide into two daughter cells. To find its center, E. coli uses an interesting trick where populations of proteins (known as the Min system, shown here in yellow and purple) oscillate in waves from the two different ends of the cell, eventually coming to a balance that allows the cell-dividing machinery to attach exactly in the middle of the bacterium. — Rachel Tompa, Ph.D.

Microscopic viewpoints, computer-generated models, intricate tracings and more — see a new side of science with SciShots.

About the author: Rachel Tompa

Rachel Tompa is a science and health writer and editor. A former molecular biologist, she’s been telling science stories since 2007 and has covered the gamut of science topics, including the microbiome, the human brain, pregnancy, evolution, science policy and infectious disease. During her tenure as Senior Editor at the Allen Institute, Rachel wrote stories and created podcast episodes covering all the Institute’s scientific divisions.

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