Team:ETHZ Basel/InformationProcessing/Game


E. lemming 2D Game


Example movie showing the E. lemming 2D game.
In Dec 14th, 1948 Goldsmith obtained a U.S. patent 2,455,992 [1] entitled "Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device", which is now regarded as the first video game. The user could shoot simple missiles on targets, process visualized with a cathode ray. Many years later, video and computer games became part of the mainstream and have been, for many people, the first contact with computers.

It is well known that humans, especially children but also adults, easily learn complex topics while playing. For example, moderate playing of video games can increase children computer skills, but also their mathematical skills and their three-dimensional imagination.

As a side project, we aim to partially copy the early success of electronic video games by creating one of the first synthetic biology games utilizing our E. lemming. Although we do not expect comparable monetary success due to the still high costs and the legal problems in setting up a home gene-laboratory for potential private customers, we believe it might still be a good idea for educational proposes. Students in synthetic biology could be successfully motivated, by giving them a playful access to otherwise highly theoretical topics as bacterial chemotaxis, noise, experimental setup, light inducible proteins and synthetic biology as a whole.

The game is realized using mainly the capabilities of the Matlab Toolbox and can be downloaded in the respective section. It can be played either by using our mathematical model of bacterial chemotaxis, or by connecting the workstation to a motorized microscope and thus imaging and controlling our E. lemming in vivo.

The story

Life is hard and short, especially for little E. coli cells, and only the fittest will survive and be able to reproduce themselves. Since millions of years, E. coli have competed with each other, mainly by eating as much Aspartate as they could and swimming in the direction where they could even eat more. In a nutshell, your ancestors were not very intelligent, only ate and reproduced and basically everything stayed the same. Until now.

You are the E. lemming, and you are part of a genetically identical colony of E. coli cells used by students during their attempt to participate in the iGEM contest. They tried to insert vectors containing the genes for a RFP protein into you and your brothers and sisters, but they made a mistake in using the incubator.

Something happend. You are different. Due to spontaneous point-mutations and yet not fully understood epigenetic changes, you became aware of your situation. You understand that you are only used. Used by them. Used by them in the attempt to win a medal. As if you were only a stone or would be unable to think, as your other simple E. coli brothers and sisters. This makes you angry. Nobody should use you, they should treat you as an intelligent bacterial being, equal in rights.

But what can you do? You see them walking up and down the laboratory, doing crucial experiments with your family. But they are large, incredibly large, and you are small. You cannot defeat them, they will always win. At least you can stop them from succeeding with their evil plan. At least you can stop them from having success with their cloning strategy.

By chance, you figured out that due to a misfolding of your RFP proteins and a thus changed three-dimensional tertiary structure (which also makes you glow in a different color), you can control the moment of excitation and where the photon will fly. And these unaware students supply you with a nearly infinit amount of emission photons. You develop a plan.....

Your goal: In 10 minutes they will come to purify your and your family's DNA to send it to the Registry of standard biological parts. You have to stop them. You have to destroy the whole colony by shooting photons on every single E. coli cell. They will die anyways, either now a quick death or they will crucially be burned in boiling water until they die in pain. Better now! When the students will come back, the colony must have been destroyed completely. You have to hurry!


The E. lemming 2D Game requires the Matlab Toolbox to be installed and can be downloaded from the Achievements/Matlab Toolbox section.


[1] Goldsmith, T.T. U.S. Patent 2,455,992, 1948.