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Researcher aims to understand strange secrets of magnetotactic bacteria

October 16, 2012 8:44 am | News | Comments

Magnetotactic bacteria are organisms which develop membrane-encapsulated nano-particles known as magnetosomes. Although these microbes were first discovered in 1975, the production of their magnetite crystals is still not fully understood. A researcher in the U.K. is now using computational simulation tools to discover how magnetosomes allow bacteria to orient themselves along the Earth’s magnetic field lines.

Evolving microbes help turn bio-oil into advanced biofuels

October 15, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

The bacteria and microalgae typically used to ferment biofuels don’t react well to bio-oil produced by fast pyrolysis. The result of this thermochemical process is a thick, molasses-like oil that is toxic to the microbes. Researchers at Iowa State University, however, have adopted a hybrid approach that incorporates a biochemical conversion path to improve the microbes’ tolerance to contaminants.

Bacterial life, filmed in multicolor

October 11, 2012 9:11 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has discovered a new method for coloring the cell wall of bacterial cells to determine how they grow. Multicolored probes target cell wall synthesis, labeling them with nontoxic dyes. The technique provides a new, much-needed tool for the development of new antibiotics.


Plasma jet gives “cold” shoulder to superbugs

October 3, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have developed a new technique which has the potential to kill off hospital superbugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa , C. difficile, and MRSA. The method uses a cold plasma jet to rapidly penetrate dense bacterial structures known as biofilms which bind bacteria together and make them resistant to conventional chemical approaches.

Superman-strength bacteria produce gold

October 2, 2012 3:58 am | News | Comments

At a time when the value of gold has reached an all-time high, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium's ability to withstand incredible amounts of toxicity is key to creating 24-karat gold.

Bioengineers introduce 'Bi-Fi, the biological Internet

September 27, 2012 11:32 am | News | Comments

If you were a bacterium, the virus M13 might seem innocuous enough. It insinuates more than it invades, setting up shop like a freeloading house guest, not a killer. Once inside it makes itself at home, eating your food, texting indiscriminately. Recently, however, bioengineers at Stanford University have given M13 a bit of a makeover; they have parasitized the parasite and harnessed M13's key attributes to create what might be termed as the biological Internet, or "Bi-Fi."

Scientists uncover virus with potential to stop pimples

September 26, 2012 6:18 am | News | Comments

Watch out, acne. Doctors soon may have a new weapon against zits: A harmless virus living on our skin that naturally seeks out and kills the bacteria that cause pimples. In the new findings, scientists looked at two little microbes that share a big name: Propionibacterium acnes , a bacterium thriving in our pores that can trigger acne, and P. acnes phages, a family of viruses that live on human skin.

Producing ethylene via photosynthesis

September 26, 2012 5:01 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have demonstrated a better way to use photosynthesis to produce ethylene, a breakthrough that could change the way materials, chemicals, and transportation fuels are made, and help clean the air. The scientists introduced a gene into a cyanobacterium and demonstrated that the organism remained stable through a least four generations, producing ethylene gas that could be easily captured.


Eye proteins have germ-killing power

September 25, 2012 5:03 am | News | Comments

When it comes to germ-busting power, the eyes have it, according to a discovery by University of California, Berkeley researchers that could lead to new, inexpensive antimicrobal drugs. A team of vision scientists has found that small fragments of keratin protein in the eye play a key role in warding off pathogens.

Unusual symbiosis found between algae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

September 24, 2012 4:52 am | News | Comments

Emerging from the investigation of a mysterious nitrogen-fixing microbe that has a very small genome, an international team of investigators has found that certain type of photosynthetic bacteria not only provides nitrogen to its host single-cell algae, it appears now to be the most widespread nitrogen-fixing organism in the oceans.

Bacteria’s key innovation helps us understand evolution

September 21, 2012 9:04 am | News | Comments

Several years ago researchers at Michigan State University reported discovering a novel, evolutionary trait in a long-studied population of Escherichia coli . These same biologists have now analyzed this new trait's genetic origins and found that in multiple cases, the bacteria needed more than one mutational step. The finding documents this step-by-step process and highlights the importance of evolutionary changes that alter the physical arrangement of genes, leading to new patterns of gene regulation.

Team deciphers structural details of deadly enzyme

September 20, 2012 8:09 am | by Lori Ann White | News | Comments

Scientists have been spending nearly a decade trying to pin down the crystalline structure of an enzyme complex that bacteria such as anthrax, leprosy, diptheria, and tuberculosis use to replicate themselves. X-ray analysis at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory now reveals how the enzyme is employed to synthesize a nucleotide these bacteria needs to produce DNA.

Weapons of mass protection

September 7, 2012 5:18 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

Competition is a strong driving force of evolution for organisms of all sizes: Those individuals best equipped to obtain resources adapt and reproduce, while others may fall by the wayside. Many organisms also form cooperative social structures that allow resources to be defended and shared within a population. But surprisingly, even microbes, which are thought to thrive only when able to win the battle for resources against those nearest to them, have a somewhat sophisticated social structure that relies on cooperation, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists.


Study may lead to understanding of how to break up bacterial biofilms

September 6, 2012 6:27 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that when enough bacteria get together in one place, they can make a collective decision to grow an appendage and swim away. This type of behavior has been seen for the first time in marine sponges, and could lead to an understanding of how to break up harmful bacterial biofilms, such as plaque on teeth or those found on internal medical devices like artificial heart valves.

Biophysicists unravel secrets of genetic switch

August 31, 2012 6:36 am | by Carol Clark | News | Comments

An invading bacterium or virus uses proteins to achieve both specific and non-specific binding with the DNA in a cell nucleus. Emory University biophysicists have experimentally demonstrated, for the first time, how the nonspecific binding of a protein known as the lambda repressor, or C1 protein, bends DNA and helps it close a loop that switches off virulence. The work support the idea that nonspecific binding is not so random after all, and plays a critical role in virulence.

Gene sleuths stop superbug that killed six

August 27, 2012 3:36 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Over six frightening months, a deadly germ untreatable by most antibiotics spread in the nation's leading research hospital. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health locked down patients, cleaned with bleach, even ripped out plumbing—and still the germ persisted. It took gene detectives teasing apart the bacteria's DNA to solve the germ's wily spread, a CSI-like saga with lessons for hospitals everywhere as they struggle to contain the growing threat of superbugs.

Teaching a microbe to make fuel

August 21, 2012 3:23 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taught this microbe a new trick: They've tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel—specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

New bacteria-resistant materials discovered

August 13, 2012 3:53 am | News | Comments

Using state-of-the-art technology, scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered a new class of polymers that are resistant to bacterial attachment. These new materials could lead to a significant reduction in hospital infections and medical device failures.

High-tech silver dressings ward off infection in wounds

August 1, 2012 11:51 am | News | Comments

Pioneered by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and applied onto the business end of artificial skin, nanofilms that release antibacterial silver over time have recently shown they can eradicate bacteria in full-thickness skin wounds in mice.

Deadly E. coli strain decoded

July 26, 2012 10:57 am | News | Comments

The secret to the deadly 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany has been decoded, thanks to research conducted at Michigan State University. The deadliest E. coli outbreak ever was traced to a particularly virulent strain that researchers had never seen in an outbreak before. By focusing on the bacteria's biofilm, the researchers have devised a way to potentially tame the killer bacteria.

Newfound gene may help bacteria survive in extreme environments

July 26, 2012 4:22 am | News | Comments

In the days following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, methane-eating bacteria bloomed in the Gulf of Mexico, feasting on the methane that gushed, along with oil, from the damaged well. The sudden influx of microbes was a scientific curiosity: Prior to the oil spill, scientists had observed relatively few signs of methane-eating microbes in the area. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a bacterial gene that may explain this sudden influx of methane-eating bacteria.

Researchers produce first complete computer model of an organism

July 20, 2012 3:37 am | News | Comments

In a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world's first complete computer model of an organism has been completed, Stanford University researchers report. A team led by Stanford bioengineering Professor Markus Covert used data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium , the world's smallest free-living bacterium.

Hopping bacterial enzyme gives insight into epigenetic gene expression

July 18, 2012 5:00 am | News | Comments

University of California, Santa Barbara researchers' discovery of a variation of an enzyme's ability to "hop" as it moves along DNA, modifying the genetic material of a bacteria—and its physical capability and behavior—holds much promise for biomedical and other scientific applications.

Super-resolution microscopy shows detail of biofilm structure

July 12, 2012 10:35 am | News | Comments

A clever new imaging technique discovered at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals a possible plan of attack for many bacterial diseases that form biofilms that make them resistant to antibiotics. By devising a new fluorescent labeling strategy and employing super-resolution light microscopy, the researchers were able to examine the structure of bacterial biofilms that make these infections so tenacious.

Ions, not particles, make silver toxic to bacteria

July 11, 2012 8:26 am | News | Comments

Rice University researchers have recently settled a long-standing controversy over the mechanism by which silver nanoparticles, the most widely used nanomaterial in the world, kill bacteria. Scientists have long suspected silver nanoparticles themselves may be toxic to bacteria, but not so. Ionization is the key.

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