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The Lead

Trust your gut

January 23, 2015 9:01 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

E. coli usually brings to mind food poisoning and beach closures, but researchers recently discovered a protein in E. coli that inhibits the accumulation of potentially toxic amyloids, a hallmark of diseases such as Parkinson's. Amyloids are formed by proteins that misfold and group together, and when amyloids assemble at the wrong place or time, they can damage brain tissue and cause cell death.

Biological safety lock for genetically modified organisms

January 22, 2015 1:17 pm | by Stephanie Dutchen, Harvard Medical School | News | Comments

The creation of genetically modified and entirely synthetic organisms continues to generate...

Study: DNA trick cripples bacteria that escape confinement

January 21, 2015 2:18 pm | by By Malcolm Ritter - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Bacteria have been modified so that they die if they get out of human control, a potential step...

New tech keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces

January 15, 2015 9:44 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Just as the invention of non-stick pans was a boon for chefs, a new type of nanoscale surface...

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Antibiotic kills pathogens without resistance

January 9, 2015 7:24 am | by Greg St. Martin, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

For years, pathogens’ resis­tance to antibi­otics has put them one step ahead of researchers, which is causing a public health crisis, according to Northeastern Uni­v. Dis­tin­guished Pro­f. Kim Lewis. But in new research, Lewis and his col­leagues present a newly dis­cov­ered antibi­otic that elimi­nates pathogens without encoun­tering any detectable resistance.

The best offense against bacteria is a good defense

January 7, 2015 11:13 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A small protein active in the human immune response can disable bacterial toxins by exploiting a property that makes the toxins effective, but also turns out to be a weakness. These toxins, which are released by bacteria, have malleable surfaces that allow them to move through porous areas of host cells to pave the way for bacteria to stay alive. But that same malleability makes the toxins vulnerable to these immune system proteins.

Predicting superbugs’ countermoves to new drugs

January 5, 2015 7:29 am | by Robin Ann Smith, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise, even common infections that were easily controlled for decades are proving trickier to treat with standard antibiotics. New drugs are desperately needed, but so are ways to maximize the effective lifespan of these drugs. To accomplish that, Duke Univ. researchers used software they developed to predict a constantly evolving infectious bacterium's countermoves to one of these new drugs ahead of time.

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Speeding cyanobacteria growth “brightens” biofuel’s future

January 2, 2015 9:27 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Rapidly growing bacteria that live in the ocean and can manufacture their own food hold promise as host organisms for producing chemicals, biofuels and medicine. Researchers are closely studying one of these photosynthetic species of fast-growing cyanobacteria using advanced tools developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to determine the optimum environment that contributes to record growth and productivity.

Sweet smell of success

December 2, 2014 8:37 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Two years ago, researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute engineered E. coli bacteria to convert glucose into significant quantities of methyl ketones, a class of chemical compounds primarily used for fragrances and flavors, but highly promising as clean, green and renewable blending agents for diesel fuel. Now, after further genetic modifications, they have managed to dramatically boost the E.coli’s methyl ketone production 160-fold.

Unique sense of “touch” gives a prolific bacterium its ability to infect anything

November 20, 2014 8:49 am | by Morgan Kelly, Office of Communications, Princeton Univ. | Videos | Comments

New research has found that one of the world's most prolific bacteria manages to afflict humans, animals and even plants by way of a mechanism not before seen in any infectious microorganism—a sense of touch. This unique ability helps make the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa ubiquitous, but it also might leave these antibiotic-resistant organisms vulnerable to a new form of treatment.

Paramecia need Newton for navigation

November 19, 2014 7:36 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | Videos | Comments

For such humble creatures, single-celled paramecia have remarkable sensory systems. Give them a sharp jab on the nose, they back up and swim away. Jab them in the behind, they speed up their swimming to escape. But according to new research, when paramecia encounter flat surfaces, they’re at the mercy of the laws of physics.

Bacteria become genomic tape recorders

November 13, 2014 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a long-term storage device for memory. They envision that this stable, erasable and easy-to-retrieve memory will be well suited for applications such as sensors for environmental and medical monitoring.

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Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

October 28, 2014 8:53 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have identified microbial genes that can improve both the tolerance and the production of biogasoline in engineered strains of Escherichia coli.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

New weapons against multi-drug resistance in tuberculosis

October 9, 2014 8:51 am | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that infects the lungs of an estimated 8.6 million people worldwide. The fight against the disease is hampered by the fact that treatment requires a long time and that the bacterium often develops multi-drug resistance. Scientists have used a sensitive screening assay to test new compounds that can be used against the bacterium, and have discovered two small molecules that show remarkable promise.

“Programmable” antibiotic uses enzyme to attack drug-resistant microbes

October 6, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Microbes populating the human body have good, bad and mostly mysterious implications for our health. But when something goes wrong, we use the brute force of traditional antibiotics, which wipe out everything at once. Researchers at Rockefeller Univ. have developed a more subtle approach that uses the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9 to target a particular sequence of DNA, cutting that up but leaving more innocent microbes alone.

Research suggests new strategies for fighting TB

September 30, 2014 8:22 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Over the past few years, a class of compounds called ADEPs (cyclic acyldepsipeptides) has emerged as a promising new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds work by attaching themselves to a cellular enzyme called ClpP, which bacterial cells use to rid themselves of harmful proteins. With an ADEP attached, ClpP can’t function properly, and the bacterial cell dies.

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Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

Battling superbugs

September 23, 2014 9:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Each year, new strains of bacteria emerge that resist even the most powerful antibiotics, but scientists have discovered very few new classes of antibiotics in the past decade. Engineers have now turned a powerful new weapon on these superbugs. Using a gene-editing system that can disable any target gene, they have shown that they can selectively kill bacteria carrying harmful genes that confer antibiotic resistance or cause disease.

Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has designed new materials that could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions.

Researchers study vital on/off switches of deadly bacteria

September 19, 2014 7:50 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. In short, some bacteria “know” how many of them are present, and act accordingly.

Findings suggest how swimming cells form biofilms on surfaces

September 12, 2014 7:59 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New research findings point toward future approaches to fighting bacterial biofilms that foul everything from implantable medical devices to industrial pipes and boat propellers. Bacteria secrete a mucus-like “extracellular polymeric substance” that forms biofilms, allowing bacterial colonies to thrive on surfaces.

Findings suggest how swimming cells form biofilms on surfaces

September 11, 2014 1:07 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteria secrete a mucus-like “extracellular polymeric substance” that forms biofilms, allowing bacterial colonies to thrive on surfaces. Costs associated with biofilms affecting medical devices and industrial equipment amount to billions of dollars annually. New research reveals specifics about interactions that induce bacteria to swim close to surfaces and attach to biofilms. This may point to future approaches for fighting biofilms.

Cellular RNA can template DNA repair in yeast

September 4, 2014 7:54 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The ability to accurately repair DNA damaged by spontaneous errors, oxidation or mutagens is crucial to the survival of cells. This repair is normally accomplished by using an identical or homologous intact sequence of DNA, but scientists have now shown that RNA produced within cells of a common budding yeast can serve as a template for repairing the most devastating DNA damage—a break in both strands of a DNA helix.

We travel with our own germs

August 29, 2014 5:24 am | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Sorry, clean freaks. No matter how well you scrub your home, it's covered in bacteria from your own body. And if you pack up and move, new research shows, you'll rapidly transfer your unique microbial fingerprint to the doorknobs, countertops and floors in your new house, too.

Researchers discover why Listeria bacterium is so hard to fight

August 27, 2014 11:11 am | News | Comments

The harmful and potentially deadly bacterium Listeria is extremely good at adapting to changes. Research from Denmark uncovers exactly how cunning Listeria is and why it is so hard to fight. The discovery could help develop more efficient ways to combat the bacteria.

Japan lab unable to replicate stem cell results

August 27, 2014 6:26 am | by Elaine Kurtenbach - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Japanese laboratory that retracted a paper reporting a potentially major breakthrough in stem cell research said Wednesday its researchers have not managed to replicate the results. Scientists at the government-affiliated RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology said they are still trying to match results reported in two papers published by Nature in January and then retracted in July.

Bacterial nanowires not what scientists thought they were

August 19, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | Videos | Comments

For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of “electric bacteria” that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety of solid surfaces. A team led by scientists has now turned the study of these bacterial nanowires on its head, discovering that the key features in question are not pili as previously believed.

Worm virus details come to light

August 19, 2014 8:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.

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