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Back and Forth

In a new study in PNAS, Stanford University's Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and Drew Endy say they've found a way to control bacterial genes, reports Scientific American's Ferris Jabr at the Observations blog. The team engineered E. coli to contain genes for both red and green fluorescent proteins, and they inserted an enzyme adapted from a bacteriophage to help them manipulate which colors the bacteria would display when exposed to ultraviolet light.

However in earlier work, the team found that they could flip the bacteria's switch only once. They have since found that by flooding the bacterial cells with either antibiotics or sugar molecules, they could activate different transcription factors and flip the promoter switch back and forth to produce either red or green light — it is a "rewriteable" way to store data in a cell, Jabr says.

"By replacing the genes for red and green fluorescent proteins with whatever genes they want to study — and subsequently flipping the RAD module promoter back and forth — other researchers can precisely control genes of interest," he adds.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.