Gengineered concrete-patching bacteria: BacillaFilla


40 Responses to “Gengineered concrete-patching bacteria: BacillaFilla”

  1. dbarak says:

    Will it fill the crack in my ancient butt?!

  2. Anonymous says:

    So let me get this right, this bacteria fills GREY concrete with some sort of GOO which…. OH JESUS CHRIST RUN!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, EVEN our cells have a regulatory gene for self-destruction. After 100 mitotic divisions the cell dies (one reason is to stop the likelihood of random mutations, the process is called ‘Apoptosis’. If we didn’t have this regulatory function we wouldn’t have separate digits such as fingers and toes, and we would be massive blobs. Cancerous cells don’t have this function so they just keep dividing to make tumours. So even though it sounds scary, this process is actually very useful.

  3. fr4nk says:

    Billions of years of evolution have not resulted in death-resistant organisms.

  4. fr4nk says:

    I swear typed “bacteria.” Anyway, can evolution allow organisms control over their own telomeres? Maybe this comment thread will allow more information than the genome of Amoeba dubia… more than 231 times the number of base pairs of the human genome. :)

  5. WalterBillington says:

    The Blob.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “at which point the cells begin to develop into bacterial filaments, cells that produce calcium carbonate, and cells that secrete a kind of bacterial glue”

    This is a bit confusing. Seems to imply that bacteria are multi-celled organisms – they’re not, they are single celled. So what does this statement mean?

  7. turn_self_off says:

    i find myself wondering if this can be made to replace concrete fully at some point.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Two things:

    First, as usual, this story has been hopelessly misreported. The project is still in its very early stages, and ‘Bacillafilla’ doesn’t exist yet. Right now, it’s just a twinkle in the eyes of a group of Newcastle scientists. To date, only ‘[o]ne part, IPTG-induced filamentous cell formation, the BioBrick for the IPTG-induced filamentous cell formation, was demonstrated to work as expected.’ Which is pretty cool — but they still have a helluva way to go. See

    Second, fwiw I had the same idea 8 years ago, but instead of bacillus subtilis, it was based on a genetically modified coralline alga.

  9. bobbcorr says:

    “Essentially” spotted in para2 sentence2. Can someone gengineer a bacillus to purge this scourge of a word from common usage?

    I’m also wondering what happens when horizontal gene exchange between these critters and bacteria in the soil produces a mutation that turns soil into concrete.

  10. Shay Guy says:

    Wow. Beaten to what I was going to say in the first comment.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Every time I hear about something like this I am simultaneously impressed and terrified.

  12. Curt says:

    I’m wondering why the picture is of asphalt if this bacteria is specific to concrete.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I wonder which other substances have the “highly-specific pH of concrete”. This has the potential for amusing petrification.

  14. iratecat says:

    I’m a bit worried that the last sentence is cut off. Did the bacteria escape containment and encase the writer before he could finish typing the period?

  15. chawke says:

    Rats – Someone already beat me to the Battlestar Galactica reference.

    But really – I need to know when they will develop a version to fill the holes in my teeth, the cracks in my mind, the black hole in my heart and the bend in my pipi. Sniff…Sniff?

  16. chawke says:

    And oh…the twist in my panties…

  17. angryhippo says:

    So the world’s going to end covered with concrete…

  18. chawke says:

    The pucker in my ars….sorry…I’ll stop.


  19. dole says:

    Imitating nature. I’d think this was weird, but on the beaches of Southwest Michigan, around Saugatuck and Pier Cove near Fennville, there’s a lot of septarian, sometimes known as lightning stones and other names, in which the cracks are “glued” together with bacteria. IANAGeologist, but it took us awhile of searching the web to find the scientific name to finally place it so it stuck.

    The majority of pictures of septarian on the web are much more beautiful and notable than the ones you’ll find in Michigan, but this picture is typical of them:

  20. mrdang says:

    and we all hoped it would be the nanobots…guess accidentally paving the planet is really more our style…

  21. Sparrow says:

    I want to see a version of this that works with asphalt. Then we can have grey goo and pave the world at the same time.

  22. Courtney says:

    “a runaway patch of bacterial concrete that continued to grow despite all efforts to stop it would be somewhat annoying”

    So, kind of like ice-nine? Vonnegut warned us about this years ago.

  23. Anonymous says:

    That is Asphalt in the picture !!!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are SO right!!! I laughed so hard. I never even noticed until you said something. These guys are real sharp! Ha Ha

  24. Anonymous says:

    Uh, where is the calcium coming from? Carbonate can come from the air, but the calcium has to come from adjacent concrete. So the crack will be fixed, but the concrete will be weak.

  25. AirPillo says:

    Without that self destruct gene this bacteria would be the prototypical “grey goo” of science fiction infamy.

  26. henghog says:

    Just commenting because this looks like the crack from doctor who, it seems to turn up EVERYWHERE.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Calcium carbonite? Someone’s been watching too many Star Wars reruns.

  28. subhan says:

    Didn’t they try this stuff on Galactica?

  29. Anonymous says:

    Given that there is such a thing as random mutation, isn’t this a really bad idea?

  30. danjadave says:

    “then they politely turn into calcium carbonite and die”

    I think that should read “carbonATE”. Someone has been watching too much Star Wars!


    Umm, life, uh, finds… a way.

    *shitty Jeff Goldblum impression*

  32. Anonymous says:

    This could be the answer to streets falling apart.

  33. dross1260 says:


  34. sunilgarg says:

    The bacteria also contains a self-destruct gene

    Is such a thing even possible? Even if there is a self-destruct mechanism, evolution should simply select the variants that ignore/defeat it, thus leading to the proliferation of bacteria that are resistant to programmed death.

    • Chrs says:

      Simply put, they require a chemical that is added to the petri dish to continue living. In the absence of that chemical, they die. In the presence of that chemical, there is no evolutionary motivation for the organism not to use it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Evolution doesn’t work through motivation, though, it works through random changes. If one mutates not to use the required chemical, and the others who do don’t outcompete it, it’ll survive when the chemical runs out. If none mutates that way, no amount of evolutionary pressure would help.

    • sally599 says:

      You can always bleach them.

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