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Posts Tagged "microbiology"

The Artful Amoeba

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

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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

Wonderful Things: Parasite Shoots Tiny Animals with Harpoons Launched from Guns

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The most complicated fungal cell known to science belongs to a parasite called Haptoglossa mirabilis first lured into a rotifer-baited trap in the soil of a tropical greenhouse in a Toronto suburb on October 7, 1979. Inside that trap lay a cell so intricate and finely tuned it gives jellyfish stinging cells a run for their money.

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The Artful Amoeba

Everyone Poops — Even Paramecium

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Perhaps you’ve heard of — or even read — the children’s book “Everyone Poops“. This illustrative tome explains that because everyone eats, everyone poops. Truer words, as they say, were never spoken. But this is no less true for you than for single-celled organisms like Paramecium. The creatures in the following film are members of [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

New Octopus-like Protists in Termite Guts Named for HP Lovecraft Cosmic Monster ‘Cthulhu’

Nerds have a particular fascination for the Cthulhu mythos of horror novelist and all-around-weird-guy H. P. Lovecraft. In Lovecraft’s stories, Cthulhu was a tentacle-faced titanic god-monster who slept in a mythic undersea lair called R’lyheh, dreaming of the day he could emerge to destroy humanity. Nerds hold the mythic being in high esteem and have [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

On the Curious Motions of Syphilis and Lyme Disease Bacteria

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The bacteria that cause syphilis and Lyme Disease have something extraordinary in common: they manage to propel themselves through their environment in spite of the fact their tails are located inside their bodies. For bacteria, they’re also unusually shaped and active. In this movie, you can see the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease moving like [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

How Your Morning Commute Resembles a Fungus

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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

Missing Nitrogen May Be Vanishing in the Tubes of Giant Bacteria

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Off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula lies a dark, still, deep place. It is called the Soledad Basin, and in it lies a garden of bacteria so large you can see them with your own eyes. A 250-m high ridge on the edge of the Soledad basin traps water inside. No strong currents disturb [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Unexpected Award Phone Call: A Good Way to Start Your Day

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Yesterday morning as I was tucking into my first cup of tea, I received the startling news that I’ve won the American Meteorological Society’s Award for Distinguished Science Journalism in the Atmospheric and Related Sciences. Dr. Marshall Shepherd, president of the AMS, called to inform me of the news. I was especially shocked since I [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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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: Don’t Eat the Pink Snow

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If you stumbled one midsummer on the melting snow in the image below, what would you imagine produced the strange color? Here’s another example with a pinker hue, from further out. Here’s a poorer example that I stumbled on myself on July 4, 2011 on Long’s Peak in Colorado: When an 1818 British expedition led [...]

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Expeditions

A record day, for data and destruction

Editor’s Note: University of Southern California geobiologist Katrina Edwards is taking part in a three-week drilling project at the Atlantic’s North Pond—a sediment-filled valley on the ocean floor—designed to locate and study what she calls the “intraterrestrials”: the myriad microbial life-forms living inside Earth’s crust. This is her thirteenth blog post. To track her research [...]

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Expeditions

More coring: Drill and probe, drill and probe…

Editor’s Note: University of Southern California geobiologist Katrina Edwards is taking part in a three-week drilling project at the Atlantic’s North Pond—a sediment-filled valley on the ocean floor—designed to locate and study what she calls the “intraterrestrials”: the myriad microbial life-forms living inside Earth’s crust. This is her twelfth blog post. To track her research [...]

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Food Matters

Resistance from the Rear – Hospital Effluent and the Growing Antibiotic Crisis

Not the actual sewer pipe in this story. Click for source.

If you ever worry that you’re a bit too optimistic about the future, try reading Maryn McKenna’s posts about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The primary tools we’ve had to combat microbial disease for the past century are failing, and it’s largely our own fault. Antibiotic resistance genes (or ARGs) are spreading fast, and [...]

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Food Matters

Genetically Modified Cheese… Is Nothing Safe? At the Boundaries of the GMO Controversy

The rind of Baley Hazen Blue cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in VT

A couple of years ago, my fiancée and I wanted to try to make some home-made mozzarella cheese, but ran into a problem. In order to turn milk into cheese, you have to add a substance called “rennet,” which causes the milk to coagulate, allowing you to separate the curd (mostly fats and hydrophobic proteins) [...]

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Food Matters

Investigating the Cheese Microbiome

The rind of Baley Hazen Blue cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in VT

Last week was a monumental one for me – I said goodbye to my old lab, where I’ve worked for the past 5 years. It was harder than I thought it would be to leave. Grad school was rough at times, but it was an overwhelmingly positive and rewarding experience, due in no small part [...]

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Food Matters

Our Microbial Organ – The Good and Bad Bugs of the Human Gut

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Ever since coming to Harvard, I’ve been involved with a graduate student group called “Science in the News.” At SITN, the goal is to bring the fascination with scientists that graduate students have to a wider audience, and the flagship effort of the group is a series of lectures held every Autumn and Spring that [...]

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Guest Blog

Hallmarks of Cancer 8: Tumor-Promoting Inflammation

Tumors and their TAMs. Tumors secrete signalling molecules known as chemokines to attract circulating monocytes, a type of white blood cell. Once in the tumor, the monocytes differentiate into Tumor Associated Macrophages (TAMs). Oxygen-starved (hypoxic) areas of the tumor secrete VEGF, which attracts these TAMs. TAMs can also secrete VEGF, which in turn attract more TAMs to the tumor. / Image by Buddhini Samarasinghe.

The Hallmarks of Cancer are ten underlying principles shared by all cancers. You can read the first seven Hallmarks of Cancer articles here. The eighth Hallmark of Cancer is defined as “tumor-promoting inflammation.” We consider the immune system as our friend; it protects us by fighting infections while keeping us healthy. But there is a [...]

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Guest Blog

From the Shadows to the Spotlight to the Dustbin–the Rise and Fall of GFAJ-1

Six months ago a paper appeared on the Science Express pre-publication site of the prestigious journal Science. It came from a group of NASA-funded researchers, accompanied by the full NASA publicity hoopla, but it was harshly criticized by other researchers, with almost all agreeing that it was so seriously flawed that it should never have [...]

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Guest Blog

World Health Day: Combat Drug Resistance

Without effective antibiotics, much of modern medicine would not be possible. The treatment of cancer, the care of premature babies and even the most common surgical procedures would not be possible. Yet as each day passes, we move closer to a post-antibiotic era. The severity of the problem, which has rendered many of the strongest [...]

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Guest Blog

Short Story Science: Lenina versus the Pneumococcus

Today is January 28, and Lenina has a smashing headache; she is a Streptococcus pneumoniae researcher. Not that this was the main reason for the headache, but an important meeting was being held today to launch the Pneumococcal Molecular Epidemiology Network’s [PMEN] new paper in Science. Oddly enough, her role at the meeting is to [...]

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Guest Blog

The top 10 life-forms living on Lady Gaga (and you)

A new truth about Lady Gaga’s health has recently been revealed. She is covered in other life-forms—“her little monsters” you might call them. Contrary to statements otherwise in the media, these life-forms have nothing to do with Lady Gaga’s meat bikini. (For those who need the extra explanation, Lady Gaga is perhaps the most popular [...]

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Guest Blog

Science Cafe spreads understanding of bacteria over beers

Sophia Kathariou is the kind of scientist who can turn food-borne bacteria into great dinner conversation. The associate professor of food science and microbiology at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., spoke about her work Thursday night at Mitch’s Tavern, a longtime haunt for professors and students alike. The talk was one of Sigma Xi’s [...]

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Observations

Gut Reaction: Human Colon Replica Demonstrates How E. coli Contaminates Groundwater

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Scientists are great at growing E. coli in the lab. They know exactly under which conditions various strains thrive. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be learned from the bacteria’s behavior in an ideal, isolated and ultimately unrealistic environment. That is why a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, decided [...]

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Observations

Can Hitchhiking Earth Microbes Thrive on Mars?

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LOS ANGELES—When the Curiosity rover lifted off toward Mars, the spacecraft carried a few stowaways—278,000 bacterial spores, by NASA’s best estimate. That is sparkling clean, by spacecraft standards—the mission’s components had been sterilized, wiped, baked and coddled in clean rooms to drastically reduce the bacterial burden. Mars missions such as Curiosity are subject to strict [...]

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Observations

How Going with the Flow Helped Microbes Eat BP’s Oil Spill

Microbes kept the oil and gas spewing from the Macondo well from becoming even more of a disaster, preventing the Deepwater Horizon blowout from deeply befouling the Gulf coast. But these hydrocarbon-chompers got an assist from the Gulf of Mexico—the prevailing tides and currents helped keep hydrocarbon-eating microbes on the job, according to the results [...]

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Observations

More than a game: Researchers design video games that feature real microorganisms

Do video games change behavior? This question may be the subject of debate for years, but researchers have now shown the answer to be yes—for microorganism behavior, at least. A research group led by Stanford bioengineering professor Ingmar Riedel-Kruse has developed several real video games, inspired by Pac-Man, PONG and other classics, starring live organisms. [...]

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Observations

What’s in your gut?

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Modern science has revealed a startling fact that was first intimated by Anton von Leeuwenhoek scraping his teeth more than 400 years ago—you are more bacteria than you. Estimates put the number of microbial cells as constituting 10 times more of the cells in your body than actual human cells. What’s worse, you better not [...]

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Observations

Can fermenting microbes save us from climate change?

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Just as bacteria and fungi are methodically breaking down the millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, microbes might help us with another uncontrolled emission due to human activity—carbon dioxide. An anaerobic bacteria by the name of Clostridium ljungdahlii can ferment everything from sugars to simple mixtures of carbon dioxide and [...]

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Oscillator

If you build it, they will come: designing microbial ecosystems in cheese

Colony of Staphylococcus xylosus bacteria isolated from cheese. Image by Ben Wolfe.

Microbes live in dense and diverse communities. There are billions of bacteria from thousands of species living together in your gut or in the soil. Sequencing the total DNA of these communities can give us a catalog of the diversity that’s there, but it can’t tell us much about the relationship between those organisms, how [...]

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Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, Brewed from Real Fossils!

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With craft brewing on the rise and many breweries tinkering with flavorings that range from the somewhat obvious (honey or citrus) to the eyebrow-raising (jalapeño, hemp, or even peanut butter cup) it was only a matter of time before someone stared a 35-million year old fossil in the face and thought, “would you make a [...]

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Symbiartic

You’ve never really seen a virus until you see this

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Artist Luke Jerram is a UK-based sculptor whose glass sculptures of microscopic life make the invisible visible. I was instantly transfixed by his sculptures’ delicacy and intense beauty. For me, something is captured in these sculptures that is lost in the false-color scanning electron microscope images we typically see of viruses and other extremely small [...]

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Talking back

Brie and Milbenkäse Are the New “Lab Rats” for Microbiologists

Trillions of microbes, a galaxy’s worth of prokaryotes, inhabit the human GI tract. Figuring out what the microbiome does, as this Brobdingnagian collection of critters is known, remains a grand challenge of biology. As always, scientists try to make a difficult problem tractable by conducting studies in a simpler version of the organism or environment they [...]

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