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Oscillators are physical systems whose evolution over time varies repeatedly around a central state of equilibrium. Oscillating cycles that are more or less periodic are found in all sectors of science, from quantum physics to cell biology, sociology or cosmology.
The first synthetic genetic oscillator or ‘repressilator’ is simplified using insights from stochastic theory, thus achieving remarkably precise and robust oscillations and informing current debates about the next generation of synthetic circuits and their potential applications in cell-based therapies.
Ion channels in bacterial biofilms are shown to conduct long-range electrical signals within the biofilm community through the propagation of potassium ions; as predicted by a simple mathematical model, potassium channel gating is shown to coordinate metabolic states between distant cells via electrical communication.
The emergence of long-range metabolic co-dependence within a biofilm drives oscillations in growth that resolve a social conflict between cooperation and competition, thereby increasing community-level fitness against chemical attack.