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Artificial cells help scientists study molecular crowding, gene expression

July 16, 2013 9:06 am | News | Comments

The interior of a living cell is a crowded place, with proteins and other macromolecules packed tightly together. A team of scientists at Carnegie Mellon Univ. has approximated this molecular crowding in an artificial cellular system and found that tight quarters help the process of gene expression, especially when other conditions are less than ideal.

Leaf cutter ants inspire new anti-cancer drugs

July 3, 2013 9:08 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of East Anglia are developing a new class of anti-cancer drugs that are not only powerful but also circumvent a primary cause of resistance to chemotherapy. The work is inspired by nature’s fungus farmer, the leaf cutter ant.

Chemist bringing low-cost, inkjet-printed water quality test strips to Pakistan

July 1, 2013 5:48 pm | News | Comments

On Monday, the National Academy of Sciences announced a three-year grant to chemist Vincent Rotello at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop, test and deploy new, sensitive, reliable and affordable inkjet-printed, nanoparticle-based test strips for detecting disease-causing bacteria in drinking water.

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Silver could promote colonization of bacteria on medical devices

July 1, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

Biomaterials are susceptible to microbial colonization, which is why silver is often added to reduce the adhesion rate of bacteria. However, a recent study by researchers in Portugal suggests that—in one material—increasing levels of silver may indirectly promote bacterial adhesion instead of decrease it.

Biochemists identify protease substrates crucial for bacterial health

June 28, 2013 9:28 am | News | Comments

Research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has revealed how protein degradation is critical to cell cycle progression and bacterial development. The team used a combination of biochemistry and mass spectrometry to “trap” scores of new candidate substrates of the protease ClpXP. These substrates cover all aspects of bacterial growth and development.

High-octane bacteria could ease pain at the pump

June 25, 2013 1:28 pm | News | Comments

By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria, researchers at Harvard University have devised a new way to produce a gasoline-like biofuel. According to the scientists, who are tweaking metabolic pathways in bacteria, new lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline.

Palm-size microarray technique grows 1,200 cultures of microbes

June 25, 2013 6:40 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research have developed a microarray platform for culturing fungal biofilms that holds 1,200 individual cultures of fungi or bacteria. The nano-scale platform technology could one day be used for rapid drug discovery for treatment of any number of fungal or bacterial infections, or even as a rapid clinical test to identify antibiotic drugs.

Bacterial DNA may integrate into human genome more readily in tumor tissue

June 24, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Bacterial DNA may integrate into the human genome more readily in tumors than in normal human tissue, scientists have found. The researchers analyzed genomic sequencing data available from the Human Genome Project, the 1,000 Genomes Project and The Cancer Genome Atlas. They considered the phenomenon of lateral gene transfer, the transmission of genetic material between organisms in a manner other than traditional reproduction.

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Genetic switches play big role in human evolution

June 12, 2013 8:45 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

A Cornell Univ. study offers further proof that the divergence of humans from chimpanzees some 4 to 6 million years ago was profoundly influenced by mutations to DNA sequences that play roles in turning genes on and off. The study provides evidence for a 40-year-old hypothesis that regulation of genes must play an important role in evolution since there is little difference between humans and chimps in the proteins produced by genes.

A potential target to thwart antibiotic resistance

June 11, 2013 7:41 am | News | Comments

Bacteria in the gut that are under attack by antibiotics have allies no one had anticipated, a team of Harvard Univ. Wyss Institute scientists has found. Gut viruses that usually commandeer the bacteria, it turns out, enable them to survive the antibiotic onslaught, most likely by handing them genes that help them withstand the drug.

Salmonella uses protective switch during infection

May 28, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers have found a particular kind of molecular switch in the food-poisoning bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium under infection-like conditions. This switch, using a process called S-thiolation, appears to be used by the bacteria to respond to changes in the environment during infection and might protect it from harm, researchers report.

Scientists offer first definitive proof of bacteria-feeding behavior in green algae

May 23, 2013 11:21 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers has captured images of green alga consuming bacteria, offering a glimpse at how early organisms dating back more than 1 billion years may have acquired free-living photosynthetic cells. This acquisition is thought to have been a critical first step in the evolution of photosynthetic algae and land plants.

Bacterium from Arctic offers clues about life on Mars

May 23, 2013 2:04 pm | News | Comments

The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15 C, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting.  The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on Mars.

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Bacteria organize according to "rich-get-richer" principle

May 10, 2013 11:16 am | News | Comments

Bacteria on a surface wander around and often organize into highly resilient communities known as biofilms. It turns out that they organize in a rich-get-richer pattern similar to the distribution of wealth in the U.S. economy, according to a new study.

Bacteria adapt, evade nanosilver's sting

May 8, 2013 8:22 am | News | Comments

Researchers have cautioned that more work is needed to understand how microorganisms respond to the disinfecting properties of silver nanoparticles, increasingly used in consumer goods and for medical and environmental applications. Although nanosilver has effective antimicrobial properties against certain pathogens, overexposure to silver nanoparticles can cause other potentially harmful organisms to rapidly adapt and flourish.

Solar-powered nanofilters pump in antibiotics to clean contaminated water

May 1, 2013 12:39 pm | News | Comments

Using the same devious mechanism that enables some bacteria to shrug off powerful antibiotics, scientists have developed solar-powered nanofilters that remove antibiotics from the water in lakes and rivers twice as efficiently as the best existing technology.

Germ-zapping robots: Hospitals combat superbugs

April 29, 2013 10:49 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

They sweep. They swab. They sterilize. And still the germs persist. In U.S. hospitals, an estimated 1 in 20 patients pick up infections they didn't have when they arrived. This causes hospitals to try all sorts of new approaches to stop their spread, including machines that resemble "Star Wars" robots and emit ultraviolet light or hydrogen peroxide vapors.

Genetic circuit allows both individual freedom, collective good

April 22, 2013 7:42 am | News | Comments

Individual freedom and social responsibility may sound like humanistic concepts, but an investigation of the genetic circuitry of bacteria suggests that even the simplest creatures can make difficult choices that strike a balance between selflessness and selfishness.

Random walks on DNA

April 19, 2013 10:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists have revealed how a bacterial enzyme has evolved an energy-efficient method to move long distances along DNA. The findings present further insight into the coupling of chemical and mechanical energy by a class of enzymes called helicases, a widely distributed group of proteins, which in human cells are implicated in some cancers.

How waterborne bacteria colonizes on rough surfaces

April 12, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

New research from Harvard University helps to explain how waterborne bacteria can colonize rough surfaces—even those that have been designed to resist water. A team studied the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, which has many flagella that stick out in all directions. The researchers found that these tails can act as biological grappling hooks, reaching far into nanoscale crevices and latching the bacteria in place.

Team finds protein that increases inflammation, and agents that block it

April 1, 2013 12:23 pm | News | Comments

Pneumonia and other infections sometimes provoke an inflammatory response from the body that is more detrimental than the disease-causing bacteria. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine discovered a new biological pathway of innate immunity that ramps up inflammation and then identified agents that can block it, leading to increased survival and improved lung function in animal models of pneumonia.

Researchers find surprising similarities between genetic, computer codes

March 29, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

The term "survival of the fittest" refers to natural selection in biological systems, but Darwin's theory may apply more broadly than that. New research from Brookhaven National Laboratory shows that this evolutionary theory also applies to technological systems. The team worked to compare that frequency with which components "survive" in two complex systems: bacterial genomes and operating systems on Linux computers.

A solution to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

March 28, 2013 8:35 am | News | Comments

Through the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, several types of bacteria have become resistant to drugs that were designed to kill them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that some of these "superbugs" are linked to tens of thousands of deaths in the United States annually, including 14,000 for C. difficile and 19,000 for MRSA. Technology developed by Purdue University researchers and commercialized through a Purdue Research Park-based firm could be effective against the increased number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in the world.

Fake Shewanella reveals how bacteria breathe iron

March 26, 2013 8:13 am | News | Comments

Certain bacteria can breathe iron like we breathe oxygen. Understanding how they do so will help researchers use the microbes for cleaning up soil contaminants, for trapping carbon dioxide, or for making batteries out of bacteria. Now, a team of researchers report that proteins on the surface of bacteria produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface, allowing them to breathe the iron in the rock.

Bacterial byproduct offers route to avoiding antibiotic resistance

March 22, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

As public health officials sound the alarm about the global spread of drug-resistant bacteria, researchers are working to develop more effective antibiotics to counter this dangerous trend. Now, results from a team including a Princeton University scientist offer a possible solution that uses the bacteria's own byproducts to destroy them.

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