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Lab Rat

Exploring the life and times of bacteria
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    S.E. Gould A biochemist with a love of microbiology, the Lab Rat enjoys exploring, reading about and writing about bacteria. Having finally managed to tear herself away from university, she now works for a small company in Cambridge where she turns data into manageable words and awesome graphs. Follow on Twitter @labratting.
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  • Fighting bacteria with weapons from fungi

    Microscopic image of Penicillium sp. which produces Penicillin as a secondary metabolite. Magnification:200

    In order to survive, organisms produce small molecules known as ‘primary metabolites’ which help it to grow, develop and reproduce. Examples include nucleic acid used to make DNA, amino acids to make proteins, and simple sugars. Once the organism is established it will often start to produce ‘secondary metabolites’. Secondary metabolites are not vital for [...]

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    Guest post: I am my mother’s chimera

    A tortoiseshell shorthair cat, image from wikimedia commons.

    This weeks post is a guest post from the wonderful E.E. Giorgi who blogs at: I AM MY MOTHER’S CHIMERA. CHANCES ARE, SO ARE YOU For years now the concept of a “genetic chimera” has sparked the imagination of writers: the idea that an individual could harbor his/her own twin is creepy and intriguing at the [...]

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    The pathogen detectives: sourcing the post-earthquake cholera outbreak in Haiti

    this is not a pipe

    Natural disasters such as earthquakes can have far-reaching effects beyond the damage caused on the day they occur. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti damaged the already limited sanitation systems leading to areas without adequate toilet and washing facilities; perfect for the spread of infection diseases. Sure enough 9 months following the quake there was an [...]

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    Fighting Cholera With Mass Vaccination

    Women walking through the fields for vaccinatoin. Image Credit: Ms HyonJin Jeon (the International Vaccine Institute staff)

    When studying bacteria it is quite easy to get fascinated with them as a laboratory specimen while forgetting the huge impact they can have in real life societies. I find the PLoS journal of Neglected Tropical diseases redresses that as it covers work with bacteria and parasites from the front line. My previous post from [...]

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    Frost giants: the unfreezing of an ancient virus

    Image from reference one. Julia Bartoli & Chantal Abergel; Information Génomique et Structurale, CNRS-AMU

    One of the great things about working with bacteria and viruses is that they can be put into suspended animation by sticking them in the freezer. This is handy for researchers as it means that samples can be easily preserved between experiments. What works in a freezer also works in natural ice and researchers have [...]

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    Innate immunity: the first line of defence

    Scanning electron microscope of blood cells used in the innate immune response. Red blood cells are the smooth ones with the dent in the middle, white blood cells are round and knobbly.

    The very first line of defence against any invasion of the human body is a set of physical barriers between the inside of the body and the outer world. Defence systems like the skin, tears and the stomach lining might not sound very impressive until you start to think of what happens when they don’t [...]

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    69th Carnival of Evolution: Darwin’s Day Edition

    Portrait of Charles Darwin, late 1830s. From Origins, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin.

    Welcome to the 69th edition of the Carnival of Evolution! As February 12th was Darwin’s birthday, this is a Darwin’s Day carnival edition. To start with there’s a celebration of all things Darwinian at Synthetic Daisies, and a letter to the man himself for his 205th birthday. Darwin didn’t know it existed, but nowadays the study [...]

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    From the archives: life at 90°C

    Bacteria in a toga! Image (c) me.

    I’m on holiday this week so this is an old post that appeared on my previous blog “Life of a Lab Rat” on July 1st 2010. Prokaryotes are by far the most successful superkingdom in terms of both biochemical diversity and the variety of environments conquered. Bacteria can be found living in all kinds of [...]

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    Bacteria in space!


    Where humans travel, bacteria will follow. If people are in space for any amount of time, bacteria are sure to thrive there so it’s good to know that there are already researchers looking at how the environment within spaceships affects bacterial populations. Work done on planktonic colonies of bacteria has shown that they can become [...]

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    Categorising bacteria in purple and pink


    When confronted with a new bacteria there are a series of simple tests that can be carried out to give a rough idea of the properties of the bacteria you are dealing with. One of the simplest and most useful tests is known as “Gram staining” which is a process of staining cells either purple [...]

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