E. coli is a Gram negative rod-shaped bacterium that is a regular inhabitant of the human gastrointestinal tract and certain strains can cause a lot of trouble. A team from the University of Tokyo in Japan, however, have manipulated the bacterium to perform a more noble task: Solving Sudoku.
The bacterium managed to solve 4×4 grid Sudoku puzzles, and in theory the more common 9×9 grid puzzles should be solvable as well.
They used 16 types of E. coli with a distinct genetic identity, one for each square in the grid. Each bacterium can express one of four colors which represent the numerical values. The bacteria which are present in the starting situation represent the unsolved puzzle, and these bacteria then message nearby bacteria using RNA. Neighboring bacteria only accept RNA from cells in the same row, column or block, which ultimately leads to a process in which the bacteria solve the puzzle.
All clear? If not, there’s a video explaining the process in more detail:
See the study abstract from the University of Tokyo HERE.
*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*