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Posts Tagged "fungi"

The Artful Amoeba

Dandruff-Causing Skin Fungi Discovered Unexpectedly in Deep Sea Vents, Antarctica

malassezia_CDCphil_pd_200

Until relatively recently, the fungus Malassezia was thought to have one favorite home: us. As the dominant fungus on human skin and sometimes-cause of dandruff, the yeast Malassezia was thought to live a simple if sometimes irritating domestic existence humbly mooching off the oils we exude. No more. Thanks to the efforts of scientists over [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Kawasaki Disease Traced to Winds from Northeast China Carrying Unusual Fungal Load

Kawasaki_origin_Rodo_et_al_2014_200

In 2012 I wrote a story for Nature about a strange illness called Kawasaki Disease whose cause has eluded scientists for over 50 years. The diseases causes inflammation of the blood vessels in small children that leads to fever, rashes and reddening, and even coronary aneurysms that can cause heart attacks in the young. Whatever [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Frog-Killing Fungus Meets Its Match in Hidden World of Tiny Predators

micropredators_glowing_Schmeller_et_al_2014_200

As I reported in a feature story in Scientific American last December , some fungi have been behaving badly of late, attacking bats, plants, amphibians, reptiles, and people with gusto, driving many species to extinction and others to the brink. It’s all quite depressing. But today in Scientific American online I report some good news: [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Fungi Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Rhizopus_stolonifer_petersen_200

When I took Mycology 101 in grad school, the textbook situation was so bad that the one we used came on a CD-ROM. Not came with a CD-ROM. It was one. My professor grumbled that printed mycology texts all had their flaws and none was great. The illustrations were usually fair to poor. The drawings [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

An Illustration of the Many Ways to Be Multicellular on Planet Earth

dictyostelium_aggregating_pd_200

How many ways are there to be multicellular on Earth? You know, organisms made of more than one cell? Let’s see . . . plants, animals, and fungi. Three, right? Wrong. I give you “Representative Diverse Origins of Multicellularity …”, aka, Fig. 1 from the paper “The Evolutionary-Developmental Origins of Multicellularity” in the January issue [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Fungi on the March: My New Feature Story for Scientific American

cryptococcus_neoformans_wiki_cdc_pd_200

Healthy humans are strangely impervious to fatal fungi. It usually takes something like a shot in the spine with a contaminated drug to give fungi the necessary upper hand. Sure, fungi can be maddening skin irritants, but when was the last time you heard that someone with a normal immune system had died of a [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

How Your Morning Commute Resembles a Fungus

neurospora_crassa_nuclear_traffic_screenshot_200

In many fungi, the DNA storage compartments called nuclei are not prisoners of the cells they reside in, the way they are in animals and plants. Instead, fungal nuclei are free to move about the cabin. They flow through the joined, tube-shaped cells of fungi like busy commuters, and experience many of the same dynamics. [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

There’s Darwin’s Fungus!

darwin_cyttaria_screenshot_200

Last winter I wrote a post called “Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls” about a fungus called Cyttaria that Darwin collected during his journey on the Beagle. The fungus has a fascinating alien shape and neon orange color when fresh. At the time, I wrote: According to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, Darwin sent his specimen [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Yeast: Making Food Great for 5,000 Years. But What Exactly Is it?

Candida_albicans_wiki_cc_Y_tambe_200

Fire was the first force of nature tamed for cooking. Yeast was second. In the early days of ancient Egypt, around 3100 B.C., there lived a ruler named Scorpion, who probably did not look like The Rock. When Scorpion died, pyramids had not yet been invented, so he was buried in a broad, low tomb [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Hidden Beauty of the Horse Dung Fungus

pisolithus_tinctorius_jf_200

Note: This is the third installment in the “Wonderful Things” series. What you are about to see is a truffle-like (although it seems to fruit above-ground) fungus called Pisolithus tinctorius. It has many names, but in the United States it sometimes goes by “dyemaker’s puffball”. From the outside, it sits on the ground like an unassuming [...]

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Lab Rat

Glowing fungi for studying infectious diseases

Bioluminescent dinoflagellates on a breaking wave. Image by catalano82 on flickr

When studying how infections grow and spread it is always helpful to be able to see the organism causing the disease. There are currently a range of microbial and labelling techniques available to view micro-organisms within the cells they infect, and one of the most useful is bioluminescence imaging. This takes advantage of a natural [...]

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Lab Rat

Sauerkraut: bacteria making food

This much sauerkraut!

Last week my husband needed some jars for cooking purposes. Tesco sell jars for somewhere around £3 each. However they also sell large jars full of sauerkraut for £1 each. Which means that last weekend we had an awful lot of sauerkraut to try and get through. I’m not a great fan of sauerkraut, which [...]

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Lab Rat

Urease: an anti-microbial target in bacteria and fungi

Proteus bacteria growing on an agar plate

Urea is a small molecule formed as proteins are broken down. It’s excreted in urine, but isn’t particularly toxic at low levels so it’s found in cells throughout the body. The molecular structure of urea is below, and as it contains nitrogen (N) several pathogens have adapted to use it as a nitrogen source using [...]

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Lab Rat

Diseases in the wild: the frog apocalypse

An alpine tree frog showing signs of the fungal infection including reddened skin and "

The best way to prevent a disease from turning into an epidemic is to closely monitor its development and put systems in place before it starts spreading rapidly through populations. This requires surveillance and monitoring of the disease and disease populations. This is fine for populations of livestock, or humans, but tends to be a [...]

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Lab Rat

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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Lab Rat

Fungi that steal genes from bacteria

A tree in Sicily covered in different types of lichen, credit below

In order to survive in complex and interesting environments in the wild, bacteria have a whole arsenal of chemical products that they make within the cell. These chemicals are used for signalling, defence and communication between bacterial cells. One particular group of these chemicals is called the polyketide group, which I have a particular fondness [...]

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Lab Rat

How Barley Protects Against Invasion

A ladybird on barley - image by T. Voekler, credit below

Unlike animals, plants do not have a circulating blood system containing cell capable of fighting off bacterial invasion. Instead, they have to rely on various other techniques, which I covered in detail way back on my old Field of Science blog. One method they use is to kill off cells that are close to a bacterial or [...]

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Lab Rat

How fungi steal zinc from your body

One of the most famous human fungi, Candida Albicans, growing on a petri-dish. Content Providers(s): CDC/Dr. William Kaplan Creation Date: 1969

I’ve been getting quite into the human microbiome lately, covering both vaginal bacteria and digestive tract bacteria. One thing I thought it might be interesting to highlight is that we talk about the human “microbiome” rather than the human “bacteriome” because it contains a range of microbial species including bacteria, fungi and even possibly blastocysts. [...]

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Lab Rat

How to explore a protein

Aspergillus mould, from wikimedia commons.

I’m doing a journal club presentation tomorrow, where I take a paper apart in front of my lab through the medium of powerpoint. It’s a nice short little paper but it does bring up some interesting points and also works as a prime example of a very common way that scientists go about exploring how [...]

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Observations

The Race to Catalogue Living Species before They Go Extinct

soft-coral

The U.S. has spent several billion dollars looking for life on other planets. Shouldn’t we spend at least that much finding and identifying life on Earth? That is the argument behind a taxonomy analysis by a trio of scientists in Science, published on January 25. They argue just $500 million to $1 billion a year [...]

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Observations

Unwanted Housemates: Dishwashers Provide Habitat for “Extremotolerant” Fungi

Dishwasher in a kitchen

A dishwasher makes a nice addition to any home. But the appliances also make a nice home for a number of fungi, some of which are pathogenic, according to a new study. A group of researchers from institutions in Slovenia, the Netherlands and China took samples from the rubber seals inside 189 dishwashers from 18 [...]

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Thoughtomics

Frog-killing fungus is a skin-loving hybrid

This Limosa Harlequin Frog has died from chytridiomycosis. Notice the reddening of the skin and the lesions on its belly.

These are not the best of times for amphibians. All around the world, populations of frogs, salamanders and newts are declining. At least 489 species (7.8% of all known amphibians) are nearing extinction. More than a hundred of these endangered species have not been seen in recent years, and have likely gone extinct already. Who [...]

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