This picture of Mona Lisa is made entirely from bacteria – here’s how it was done

Scientists have created this image of the Mona Lisa entirely from bacteria.
Frangipane et al (eLife 2018)

Using genetically modified E.coli bacteria, Italian scientists have managed to recreate one of the most famous paintings of all time: the Mona Lisa.

The researchers from the Sapiezna University of Roma actually achieved this in an attempt to unite different attributes so they could control large populations of bacteria – with the hope that one day microscopic transport devices could be built using bacteria.

Putting it simply, by uniting what is basically a cellular solar panel with the “tail”, called the flagellum, of the E.coli bacteria, a system would be created where the more light a bacterium received, the faster its tail would move.

This would, of course, allow scientists to control the movements of bacteria if they control the amount of light it is exposed to, and thus they would be able to create images like the Mona Lisa if they wanted to.

The Mona Lisa wasn’t the only piece of history they managed to reproduce; the team also created a video of the bacteria shifting from an image of Albert Einstein to an image of Charles Darwin.

The experiment was not without problems though.

The bacteria were slow to change positions, and the images came out fuzzy. While the researchers were able to solve the issue, it opens the door for more possibilities, like being able to eventually 3D print using bacteria.

The author of the study, Roberto Di Leonardo told Gizmodo: “I think it’s an interesting proof of concept of possibly using bacteria as bricks to build structure on the microscale cheaply and easily.”