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Posts Tagged "pathology"

The Artful Amoeba

Mystery of Alaskan “Goo” Rust Solved at Last

rust_spores_alaska_noaa_200

Last fall the small Alaskan coastal village of Kivalina was inundated by a mysterious orange “goo”(click for photo). Locals and others suspected a toxic algal bloom (see here for image), or perhaps some sort of chemical release, or millions of microscopic “crustacean eggs”. Yet just a month later the mystery substance was identified as none [...]

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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

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

Fussy eaters: the favoured food of Salmonella

The chemical structure of fructose-asparagine, image from the reference.

As antibiotic resistance increases the search for new anti-bacterial treatments becomes more and more important. One way to design anti-bacterials is to find specific biochemical pathways that the bacteria require to survive, and develop drugs that block off these pathways. Some pathways are better targets than others and for Salmonella bacteria it was thought that pathways [...]

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Lab Rat

Sleeping sickness and tsetse flies

The tsetse fly! From the PLoS collection. Image Credit: Geoffrey M. Attardo, Research Scientist at the Yale School of Public Health.

Although this blog focus mostly on bacteria, I do occasionally dip out of my comfort zone into other infectious elements such as viruses, prions and fungi. One topic that I haven’t covered nearly enough is the protozoan pathogens; the unicellular organisms that are not bacterial, but are responsible for some of the deadliest diseases in the world [...]

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Lab Rat

Breaking down the city walls: small molecules that target bacterial biofilms

Polymicrobic biofilm grown on a stainless steel surface in a laboratory potable water biofilm reactor for 14 days, then stained with 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) and examined by epifluorescence microscopy. Bar, 20 µm.

Although bacteria are single celled organisms, they are capable of working together in massive bacterial colonies known as biofilms. Within the biofilm bacteria will differentiate to perform different tasks, all wrapped up within a sticky substance that holds the cells together. I’ve written about biofilms before; how they form and how they work in space! [...]

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Lab Rat

The bacteriophages of tuberculosis

The mycobacteriophage Bxb1. At the top is the 'head' where DNA is stored. The long tube at the bottom attaches to the bacteria and injects in the DNA. Image from reference 2.

I’ve written previously about bacteriophages, the viruses that infect bacteria, and I studied them for my first lab project. So I was pretty excited by a lovely little pearl in PLoS Pathogens last month discussing mycobacteriophages; the viruses that specifically attack mycobacteria. Mycobacteria are a group of bacteria that contain some highly dangerous human pathogens, including [...]

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Lab Rat

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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Lab Rat

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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Lab Rat

Evolving proteins – no DNA required

Light photomicrograph of brain tissue (magnified 100X) suffering from vCJD. Image from Public Health Image Library (PHIL) ID#: 10131

Prions are the infective agents that cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as Mad Cow Disease in humans. All prions affect the brain or neural tissues and are currently untreatable. What makes them particularly fascinating is that unlike other infective agents such as bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, they don’t contain any genetic material. No DNA or [...]

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Lab Rat

The SOS response: how bacteria deal with damaged DNA

61px-Dna-split

DNA is important stuff. It’s present in all living organisms on the planet (or ‘almost all’ if you wish to remain friends with virologists) and contains the information required to produce and organise the proteins within a cell. If the DNA is damaged, the cell will very quickly find itself in danger. In multicellular organisms [...]

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Talking back

A Robot Helps Listen In on Brain Cell Chatter

Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1991 for their development of the patch-clamp technique, which records currents coursing through single ion channels in cells. For neuroscientists, one form of this technique  has become the gold standard for probing information about the goings-on inside a cell. It can [...]

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