E. chromi is an experimental collaboration between designers and scientists working in the field of synthetic biology.Royal College of Art graduates’ James King and Daisy Ginsberg, together with University of Cambridge’s iGEM 2009 Biology team, are developing a cheap, personalized disease monitoring system that works from the inside out. By color-coding diseases and giving a patient an E. Coli bacteria-engineered drink — much like a probiotic shake — sick patients could soon find out what ails them by simply checking the color of their poop!

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Ginsberg, one of the designers in the team, explains how the bacteria works: “The patient ingests a drink, much like a probiotic shake, laced with the engineered E. coli; the bacteria react with the enzymes, proteins, and other chemicals that are present in the gastrointestinal tract and turn different colors for different diseases, thus changing the color of the patient’s feces.”

A finalist in last year’s Index Awards, and a winner of the World Technology Awards, E. chromi’s design gives us access to the complex networks and systems of the human body. Moreover, E. chromi has valuable, real-life applications for many disciplines outside of the medical word. In the future, chemical-free colorings and dyes made by bacteria could be used in food, and in the textiles industry, producers can use the new pigments as dye for clothing.

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Photo © Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg & James King