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.
The creation of genetically modified and entirely synthetic organisms continues to generate excitement as well as worry. Such organisms are already churning out insulin and other drug ingredients, helping produce biofuels and teaching scientists about human disease. While the risks can be exaggerated to frightening effect, modified organisms do have the potential to upset natural ecosystems if they were to escape.
Bacteria have been modified so that they die if they get out of human control, a potential step toward better management of genetically engineered organisms—perhaps including crops, researchers say. Genetically altered microbes are used now in industry to produce fuels, medicines and other chemicals. The new technique might also reduce the risk of using them outdoors, such as for cleaning up toxic spills.
Just as the invention of non-stick pans was a boon for chefs, a new type of nanoscale surface that bacteria can’t stick to holds promise for applications in the food processing, medical and even shipping industries. The technology uses an electrochemical process called anodization to create nanoscale pores that change the electrical charge and surface energy of a metal surface.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.