C-MOULD, the world’s largest collection of microorganisms for use in the arts, with over 50 different kinds of microorganism. We have bacteria and fungi that glow in ethereal shades of green and blue light, bacteria that make gold and electrically conductive nanowires, and bacteria that produce biotextiles. We also possess the largest collection of pigmented bacteria. Here is the palette of living colours that is available through C-MOULD. Behind the obvious colour, each bacterium has its own unique personality and history (see below) and when used in paintings each one adds it own character to the work. Text and image via Exploring The Invisible. Continue THERE for more info.
The Great Work of the Metal Lover: A strain of bacteria that POOPS GOLD
Historically, Magnum Opus, or The Great Work, was an alchemical process that incorporated a personal, spiritual and chemical method for creating the Philosopher’s Stone, a mysterious red colored substance that was capable of transmuting base matter into the noble metal of gold. Discovering the principals of the Philosopher’s Stone was one of the defining and at the same time seemingly unobtainable objectives of Western alchemy.
The Great Work of the Metal Lover is an artwork that sits at the intersection of art, science and alchemy, re-examining the problem of transmutation through the use of modern microbiological practice and thus solving the ancient riddle.
Gold production is accomplished by the pairing of a highly specialized metallotolerant extremophilic bacterium and an engineered atmosphere contained within a customized alchemical bioreactor. The extreme minimal ecosystem within the bioreactor forces the bacteria to metabolize high concentrations of toxic AuCl3 (gold chloride), turning soluble gold into usable 24K gold.
All text and Images via Adam Brown. Continue THERE
Genetically modified bacteria and yeast can make gold, pharmaceutical compounds and fuels.
When Michigan State University artist Adam Brown learned of a type of bacteria, Cupriavidus metallidurans, that can extract pure gold from the toxic solution gold chloride (a totally artificial salt), he hurried to an expert colleague, microbiologist Kazem Kashefi, with a question: “Is it possible to make enough gold to put in the palm of my hand?” Brown merely wanted to satisfy his intellectual and artistic curiosity, inspired by the gold-tinted roots of alchemy, the precursor of modern chemistry.
Soon thereafter, Kashefi and Brown set to work designing a half-experiment, half-art-exhibit that exposes C. metallidurans to gold chloride in a hydrogen-gas-rich atmosphere that serves as a source of food. Over the course of a week, the bacteria gradually strip-mined the toxic liquid, leaving flecks of pure 24-karat gold behind.
The inefficient technique won’t supplant traditional mining, but the idea of using microbes as production facilities for a range of rare and difficult-to-produce materials has been gaining traction over the past several years.
Excerpt from an article written by Gregory Mone at Discover. Continue HERE
Escherichia coli. Science Photo Library/Pennsylvania State University
Germs Are Us: Bacteria make us sick and also keep us alive
Helicobacter pylori may be the most successful pathogen in human history. While not as deadly as the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, cholera, and the plague, it infects more people than all the others combined. H. pylori, which migrated out of Africa along with our ancestors, has been intertwined with our species for at least two hundred thousand years. Although the bacterium occupies half the stomachs on earth, its role in our lives was never clear. Then, in 1982, to the astonishment of the medical world, two scientists, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren, discovered that H. pylori is the principal cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers; it has since been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer as well. Until that discovery, for which the men shared a Nobel Prize, in 2005, stress, not an infection, was assumed to be the major cause of peptic ulcers.
H. pylori is shaped like a corkscrew and is three microns long. (A grain of sand is about three hundred microns.) It is also one of the rare microbes that live comfortably in the brutally acidic surroundings of the stomach. Doctors realized that antibiotics could rid the body of the bacterium and cure the disease; treating ulcers this way has been so successful that there have been periodic discussions of trying to eradicate H. pylori altogether. The consensus was clear; as one prominent gastroenterologist wrote in 1997, “The only good Helicobacter pylori is a dead Helicobacter pylori.” Eradication proved complicated and expensive, however, and the effort never gained momentum. Yet few scientists questioned the goal. “Helicobacter was a cause of cancer and of ulcers,’’ Martin J. Blaser, the chairman of the Department of Medicine and a professor of microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine, told me recently. “It was bad for us. So the idea was to get it out of our bodies, as fast as we can. I don’t know of anyone who said, Gee, we better think about the consequences.”
Excerpt from an article written by Michael Specter at The New Yorker. Continue HERE. Image Via
The human microbiome: Looking at human beings as ecosystems
WHAT’S a man? Or, indeed, a woman? Biologically, the answer might seem obvious. A human being is an individual who has grown from a fertilised egg which contained genes from both father and mother. A growing band of biologists, however, think this definition incomplete. They see people not just as individuals, but also as ecosystems. In their view, the descendant of the fertilised egg is merely one component of the system. The others are trillions of bacteria, each equally an individual, which are found in a person’s gut, his mouth, his scalp, his skin and all of the crevices and orifices that subtend from his body’s surface.
A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. That is ten times as many bacterial cells as he has cells descended from the sperm and egg of his parents. These bugs, moreover, are diverse. Egg and sperm provide about 23,000 different genes. The microbiome, as the body’s commensal bacteria are collectively known, is reckoned to have around 3m. Admittedly, many of those millions are variations on common themes, but equally many are not, and even the number of those that are adds something to the body’s genetic mix.
Excerpt of a text via The Economist. Continue HERE
Played By Humans, Scored By Nature. EteRNA, an online game, helps build a new RNA warehouse
According to EteRNA: By playing EteRNA, you will participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs. Your efforts will help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses. By interacting with thousands of players and learning from real experimental feedback, you will be pioneering a completely new way to do science. Join the global laboratory!
EteRNA is starting with simple shapes like “the finger” and “the cross” to make sure you can nail the fundamentals. And then we’ll be moving on to elaborate shapes like trees. And then molecules that switch folds when they sense a specific other piece of RNA. This might take a few weeks, or it might take a year — we want to make sure we can ace these exercises.
After that, we will embark on one of a few epic projects – perhaps we’ll make the first RNA random-access memory for a computer. Or switches that enables cells to fluoresce if they start expressing cancer genes. Or how about a nanomotor? Or a nanoLED display? There are lots of options, and we’ll let you propose your own and choose.
Finally, you’ll start seeing a few other kinds of puzzles popping up in later stages: The ability to play with RNAs in three dimensions. The ability to see natural RNAs from bacteria, viruses, and humans; and challenges to predict their properties. Stay tuned.
The Purest Water of Them All
“When you taste something, you’re comparing the taste of that water to the saliva in your mouth,” says Gary Burlingame, who supervises water quality for the Philadelphia Water Department. “The saliva in your mouth is salty.”
Salty saliva bathes your tongue, drenching every one of your thousands of taste buds. It protects you from nasty bacteria, moistens your food, helps you pronounce the word “stalactite” and even lets you know when you might be drinking something bad for you. Like water.
Excerpt from an article written by Kelly Izlar, Scientific American. Continue HERE
Scientists place 500-million-year-old gene in modern organism
Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli(E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.
“This is as close as we can get to rewinding and replaying the molecular tape of life,” said scientist Betül Kaçar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. “The ability to observe an ancient gene in a modern organism as it evolves within a modern cell allows us to see whether the evolutionary trajectory once taken will repeat itself or whether a life will adapt following a different path.”
Excerpt of an article via PhysOrg. Continue HERE
Invisible Residents: The Human Microbiome Project
The Human Microbiome Project has spent two years surveying bacteria and other microbes at different sites on 242 healthy people. The chart below hints at the complex combinations of microbes living in and on the human body.
See a larger infographic at the NYT
Extremophiles Thrive on Earth’s Scientific Stand-in for Mars
The unimaginably arid conditions of South America’s Atacama Desert have mad it the perfect scientific stand-in for Mars. So in a place that is quite literally almost alien, it makes sense we’d find microbes as strange as these.
Specifically, researchers have found microbes inside some of the region’s volcanoes, which are incredibly dry even by the already ludicrous standards of the Atacama. Fungi and bacteria have been found in the recently collected soil samples, but of greatest interest are the least complex of the organisms, the archaea. Those found in the Atacama volcanoes seem to have evolved a way of converting energy – one of the most basic processes an organism undertakes – in a way unlike any other known species.
Excerpt of an article written by Alasdair Wilkins, at io9. Continue HERE
Explore the Human Microbiome
The body contains 10 times more bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms than human cells. Most of these species are harmless—although they can still cause illness if they wind up in the wrong place. In addition, researchers are beginning to learn exactly how some microbial species in the body help digestion and contribute to regulation of appetite and the immune system.
Learn about the bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms that maintain human health HERE
Garlic compound is 100 times more effective than antibiotics for fighting a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning
A compound in garlic is 100 times more powerful than two common types of antibiotics in fighting a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning, according to scientists.
The garlic ingredient called diallyl sulphide works for targeting a specific metabolic enzyme and is especially effective in penetrating the slimy ‘biofilm’ that protects colonies of Campylobacter bacterium that makes the food bug 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than bacteria without the film.
The new study, recently published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, found that not only was diallyl sulfide 100 times more effective than antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin, the garlic compound was also able to destroy Campylobacter in just a fraction of the time taken by the drugs.
Researchers said that the latest discovery may lead to future treatments for raw and processed meats, and food preparation surfaces, that most bacterial infections stem from.
“This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies,” researcher Dr. Michael Konkel, from Washington State University, who has been studying Campylobacter jejuni for 25 years, said in a statement.
Excerpt of an article written by Christine Hsu, at Medical Daily. Continue HERE
The Germs That Live on Your Smartphone. PhoneSoap: Simultaneously Charge and Sanitize Your Phone
Have you ever wondered how dirty your phone is? It is worse than you think. A little over a year ago my cousin, Wes, and I were watching TV when we saw a report stating that our phones have 18 times more harmful bacteria than the handle on a male public toilet. We were shocked! We started to research online to debunk this report, and we only found more proof (some of which was shown in our video above). We saw reports saying that besides the flu, researchers have found staph, E. Coli, and MRSA living on our cell phones! In fact, people are using their phones even before they leave the stall, which led researchers to find that 1 in 6 phones have fecal matter on them. This rang especially true with me – lets just say I had to change some habits. We found out the reason that our cell phones are so susceptible to bacteria is because of the warmth they radiate (especially our smart phones).
We did some tests of our own to find out how our phones compared to things we thought would be filthy. Our results were surprising:
PhoneSoap is a small box that simultaneously charges and sanitizes your cell phone using UV-C light. UV-C light is electromagnetic radiation that’s used in hospitals and clean rooms around the world. This short wavelength of light penetrates the cell wall of the bacteria and disrupts its DNA, effectively killing it. It is 99.9% effective in killing bacteria and virus’. Best of all it is completely safe.The UV-C light is only on for 3-5 minutes at a time and there is no heat or liquid involved so there is no risk of damaging your phone. There is a UV-C light on the top and on the bottom of the box so that the UV rays surround your phone for complete sanitation.
Text and Images via PhoneSoap. See more at KICKSTARTER
Terrifying Germs That Live on Your Smartphone
No, a Universal Cancer Vaccine Was Not Just Developed
Thanks to The Atlantic, our previous “Universal cancer vaccine developed?” post found at The Telegraph has been demystified. Here is what Neal Emery writes for the Atlantic:
While a recent media report was more hype than science, it did focus on a promising pathway for cancer treatments.
More than 40 years after Nixon called for “a national commitment for the conquest of cancer”, is victory finally in sight?
An article published in the Telegraph on Sunday suggested that a weapon able to crush cancer had arrived. Headlined “‘Universal’ cancer vaccine developed”, the piece about Israeli Vaxil BioTherapeutics’ new drug ImMucin, has seen a deluge of interest.
Unlike November 2011 reports about the drug that were met with little fanfare, this piece has been covered by dozens of news outlets and shared 19,000 times on Facebook alone. According to the Telegraph, Vaxil’s wonderdrug, “which targets a molecule found in 90 percent of all cancers, could provide a universal injection that allows patients’ immune systems to fight off common cancers including breast and prostate cancer.”
Continue article HERE
3D visualizations of breast cells. Vivek Nandakumar/Arizona State University.
‘Universal’ cancer vaccine developed?
The therapy, which targets a molecule found in 90 per cent of all cancers, could provide a universal injection that allows patients’ immune systems to fight off common cancers including breast and prostate cancer.
Preliminary results from early clinical trials have shown the vaccine can trigger an immune response in patients and reduce levels of disease.
The scientists behind the vaccine now hope to conduct larger trials in patients to prove it can be effective against a range of different cancers.
They believe it could be used to combat small tumors if they are detected early enough or to help prevent the return and spread of disease in patients who have undergone other forms of treatment such as surgery.
Cancer cells usually evade patient’s immune systems because they are not recognized as being a threat. While the immune system usually attacks foreign cells such as bacteria, tumors are formed of the patient’s own cells that have malfunctioned.
Read full article via The Telegraph
Bacteria use chat to play the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game in deciding their fate
Lessons from stressed-out bacteria could help researchers develop cancer therapies. Credit: Eshel Ben-Jacob, Tel Aviv University
SAN DIEGO, March 27, 2012 — When faced with life-or-death situations, bacteria — and maybe even human cells — use an extremely sophisticated version of “game theory” to consider their options and decide upon the best course of action, scientists reported here today. In a presentation at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, they said microbes “play” a version of the classic “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game.
José Onuchic, Ph.D., who headed the research team, said these and other new insights into the “chat” sessions that bacteria use to communicate among themselves — information about cell stress, the colony density (quorum-sensing peptides) and the stress status and inclinations of neighboring cells (peptide pheromones) — could have far-reaching medical applications.
“Using this form of cell-to-cell communication, colonies of billions or trillions of bacteria can literally reach a consensus on actions that impact people,” Onuchic explained. “Bacteria that previously existed harmlessly on the on the skin, for instance, may exchange chemical signals and reach a consensus that their numbers are large enough to start an infection. Likewise, bacteria may decide to band together into communities called biofilms that make numerous chronic diseases difficult to treat — urinary tract infections, for instance, cystic fibrosis and endocarditis.”
Excerpt from a press release at ACS. Continue HERE
Communicating Bacteria – The normal flora project
“Communicating Bacteria” is a new collaboration between Anna Dumitriu, Dr Simon Park and Dr John Paul, which explores new research currently being undertaken in the field of bacterial communication through the development of an art installation that combines bioart, textiles and video projections.
Bacteria have intricate communication capabilities, for example: quorum sensing (voting on issues affecting the colony and signaling their presence to other bacteria); chemotactic signaling (detecting harmful or favorable substances in the environment); and plasmid exchange (e.g. for transfer of antibiotic resistance genes). This is now being investigated as a form of social intelligence as it is realized that these so called ‘simplest’ of life forms can work collectively, obtain information about their environment (and other cells) and use that information in a ‘meaningful’ way. Using signaling chemicals such as Homoserine Lactone, the bacteria pass on messages to nearby cells, which can be either part of their colony or other living cells (including eukaryotic and plant cells).
Dumitriu’s long-term artistic practice is focused around microbiology and collaborative practice – Communicating Bacteria builds strongly on Dumitriu’s earlier collaborative work. Dumitriu will work using this new area of research as a basis for the development of a body of new work that will include textile designs with dyes made from bacteria that change color dependent on the behavior and communication of bacteria, crochet patterns based on bacterial responses, interactive interventions that are modeled according to the behavior and communication across bacteria.
Text via Anna Dumitriu
Why dogs sniff dogs, humans sniff humans, and dogs sometimes sniff humans
“The smell of a body is the (bacteria themselves) which we breathe in with our nose and mouth, which we suddenly possess as though (they) were (the body’s) most secret substance and, to put the matter in a nutshell, its nature. The smell which is in me is the fusion of the (bacteria) with my body…”
Adulterated, in the interest of good science, from Sartre 1967, p. 174.
A man can live many lives. Paul Ehrlich has. Once, he was a butterfly biologist. Another time, he wrote the book called The Population Bomb, a book that triggered global conversations about the fate of humanity. Still another, he described the relationship between plants and the animals that eat them. A plant evolves, he says, to escape its herbivores and then the herbivores evolve, in response. This war goes on, he found, forever.
All of these and others of the lives of Paul Ehrlich have been lauded. I want to talk about the life of Ehrlich no one ever seems to mention at the award ceremonies, Ehrlich’s life as the guy at the party with the one good liner, the one that everyone laughs at even though it crosses, some say tramples, unspoken social lines.
The specific one liner I am talking about here is one I heard when Ehrlich visited North Carolina State University, where I work. I was helping to host his visit and he and I were talking at the back of a large conference room. We were both looking at the backs of a crowd of hundreds gathered in front of us and, of all things, discussing back pain. We agreed—back pain is terrible. He told me to take care of my back and then, as he looked to the audience and stepped forward through the crowd to give his talk, he left me with a sentence somewhere between punch line and universal truth…“ back problems all started when we began walking upright. The other bad thing about walking upright is that it made it hard to sniff each other…1” With that, he strode, upright, to the stage and began to speak.
Sometimes, when I think of Paul Ehrlich, I think of people sniffing each other. And as several new studies reveal, when it comes to sniffing each other, men are like dogs. Women are too.
Written by Rob Dunn for Scientific American. Continue HERE