In two parallel projects, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created new genomes inside the bacterium E. coli in ways that could open new possibilities for increasing flexibility, productivity and safety in biotechnology. In the first project, researchers created a novel genome, the first-ever entirely genomically recoded organism. They then greatly expanded genetic changes in the second project.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new microfluidic device that could speed the monitoring of bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis and other diseases. The new microfluidic chip is etched with tiny channels, each resembling an elongated hourglass with a pinched midsection. Researchers injected bacteria through one end of each channel, and observed how cells travel from one end to the other.
Researchers at Oregon State Univ. and other institutions announced the successful use of a new type of antibacterial agent called a PPMO, which appears to function as well or better than an antibiotic, but may be more precise and also solve problems with antibiotic resistance. In animal studies, one form of PPMO showed significant control of two strains of Acinetobacter, a group of bacteria of global concern.
U.S. and German scientists have decoded a key molecular gateway for the toxin that causes botulism, pointing the way to treatments that can keep the food-borne poison out of the bloodstream. The study leaders created a 3-D crystal model of a complex protein compound in the botulinum neurotoxin. This compound binds to the inner lining of the small intestine and allows passage of the toxin into the bloodstream.
Scientists report in Nature Communications that they have engineered yeast to consume acetic acid, a previously unwanted byproduct of the process of converting plant leaves, stems and other tissues into biofuels. The innovation increases ethanol yield from lignocellulosic sources by about 10%.
Working with a synthetic gene circuit designed to coax bacteria to grow in a predictable ring pattern, Duke Univ. scientists have revealed an underappreciated contributor to natural pattern formation: time. A series of experiments published by the Duke team show that their engineered gene circuit functions as a timing mechanism, triggering a predictable ring growth pattern that adjusts to the size of its environment.
Bacterial cells use an impressive range of strategies to grow, develop and sustain themselves. Despite their tiny size, these specialized machines interact with one another in intricate ways. In new research conducted at Arizona State Univ.’s Biodesign Institute, researchers explore the relationships of two important bacterial forms, demonstrating their ability to produce electricity by coordinating their metabolic activities.
A tag team of two bacteria, one of them genetically modified, has a good chance to reduce or even eliminate the deadly disease African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, researchers at Oregon State Univ. conclude in a recent mathematical modeling study. African trypanosomiasis, caused by a parasite carried by the tsetse fly, infects 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa each year and is almost always fatal without treatment.
Scientists have discovered a natural temperature sensor in a type of bacteria that causes meningitis and sepsis. The sensor allows the bacteria to evade the body’s immune response, leading to life-threatening infections. The Oxford Univ. team found that increasing temperature causes the bacteria to make more of a protective layer that surrounds the bacterium like an 'invisibility cloak' and helps it evade detection by the immune system.
An intriguing study led by the Univ. of Colorado Boulder may provide a powerful new tool in the quiver of forensic scientists attempting to determine the time of death in cases involving human corpses: a microbial clock. The clock is essentially the lock-step succession of bacterial changes that occur postmortem as bodies move through the decay process.
Growing concern about bacterial resistance to existing antibiotics has created strong interest in new approaches for therapeutics able to battle infections. The work of an international team of researchers that recently solved the structure of a key bacterial membrane protein could provide a new target for drug and vaccine therapies able to battle one important class of bacteria.
A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.
The worldwide market for portable electronic devices is quickly growing. These devices are predominantly battery-driven, and a challenge looms for maintaining, charging and disposing of these millions of batteries. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Bacteriophage Power Generator offers a potential alternative.
Dioxane, a chemical in wide industrial use, has an enemy in naturally occurring bacteria that remove it from the environment. Researchers at Rice Univ. have found that these bacteria are more abundant at spill sites than once thought. They are designing tools to help environmental engineers determine the best way to clean up a contaminated site.
All living things must obey the laws of physics, including the second law of thermodynamics. Highly ordered cells and organisms appear to contradict this principle, but they actually do conform because they generate heat that increases the universe’s overall entropy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist mathematically modeled the replication of E. coli bacteria and found that the process is nearly as efficient as possible.
By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second. Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures.
Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.
A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline's properties better than ethanol. Univ. of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.
In two NASA-funded studies, biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. After comparing the biofilms grown on the ground with those grown on space station-bound shuttles, study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities.
A new study by Rice Univ. biophysicists offers the most comprehensive picture yet of the molecular-level action of melittin, the principal toxin in bee venom. The research could aid in the development of new drugs that use a similar mechanism as melittin’s to attack cancer and bacteria.
It’s counterintuitive but true: Some microorganisms that use flagella for locomotion are able to swim faster in gel-like fluids such as mucus. Research engineers at Brown Univ. have figured out why. It's the angle of the coil that matters.
In 1998, scientists published the first complete genome of a multicellular organism—the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. At the same time, new technologies were emerging to help researchers manipulate genes and learn more about their functions.
More forms of mercury can be converted to deadly methylmercury than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience.The discovery provides scientists with another piece of the mercury puzzle, bringing them one step closer to understanding the challenges associated with mercury cleanup.
Certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, have the ability to deploy tiny darts. This biological weapon kills the host cell by piercing the membrane. Researchers have unlocked, piece by piece, this intriguing little machine and found an assembly of proteins that, in unfolding at the right time, takes the form of a spur.
A study at the Univ. of Utah finds that more than 60% of antibiotic prescriptions are for types that kill multiple kinds of bacteria. Unfortunately, in more than 25% of cases such prescriptions are useless because the infection stems from a virus, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. This overuse of antibiotics has a number of downsides.