Chemically evolved bacteria

“European scientists have created an Escherichia coli strain with a separate genome using chlorinated DNA. The genome should be unable to transfer back into unmodified bacteria, leading to what the researchers call a ‘genetic firewall’.”

First arsenic, now chlorine. In my grad school days, we were studying DNA-protein interactions by modifying specific atoms on the DNA. With this bacteria, it would be interesting to see how the overall biochemistry and enzymatic changes. Opens up a whole new way of studying biochemistry.

And I’d really like to know how they set up their continuous culture system.

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Trillium toasts to local ingredients, tastes – BostonHerald.com

“A Brookline home brewer cleared a major hurdle this week on the way to opening a brewery of “farmhouse”-style beer in Fort Point. “It’s not a come-and-have-pints-all-night type place, it’s a come-and-have-a-sampler type place,” said Trillium Brewing Co. owner Jean-Claude Tetrault, 34. Trillium, which will have a storefront with a small tasting bar, scored a zoning variance Tuesday that allows for the manufacturing of beer on the site. Tetrault will apply for state and federal licensing in the next few weeks.”

This is indeed a nice story. Looking forward to having a few of their beers.

[via @IDBoston]

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PLoS ONE: The Gut as Reservoir of Antibiotic Resistance: Microbial Diversity of Tetracycline Resistance in Mother and Infant

“These findings reinforce the notion that the human GIT is currently a relevant environment for the spread of antibiotic resistances, even in the case of young infants that solely ingest maternal milk. Further analyses involving more mother-infant pairs will be required in order to establish whether the trends observed in this case study describe the general relationship between mother and infant antibiotic resistomes.”

This is really interesting. To me, mother-child form one closely tied ecosystem, so it’s not surprising that bacteria take advantage of that to move locations or capture resistance genes from other bugs. What’s good about a report like this is that it once again reinforces the need to re-evaluate the flow of organisms and information in the human-microbial ecosystem and implications for medicine and health.

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Probiotics In Future May Be Prescribed For Your Neurological Well-Being – Medical News Today

“The study was led by Professor Mark Lyte and has been published recently in BioEssays. The researchers have proposed that neuroactive compounds if delivered via neurochemical-producing probiotics could help improve a host’s gastrointestinal and psychological health. These probiotics could be prepared for delivery of the compound using a unifying process of microbial endocrinology.”This paper proposes a new field of microbial endocrinology, where microbiology meets neuroscience,” said Lyte.”

I’ve seen a few papers talking about immunoregulation by gut bacteria. Here’s a report on neuroregulation. Pretty cool.

[via @microbeworld]

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Navy probe descends on bacteria power | SmartPlanet

“The U.S. Navy has enlisted some very tiny sailors to fuel their latest research vessel. Microorganisms are descending into the sea, enabling unmanned pods to gather data beneath the surface. Weeks later, (perhaps even years researchers say), the craft could emerge via power it had generated on board. No batteries required—just bacteria.”

This is cool.

[via @microbeworld]

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Rediscovered glowing mushroom could shed light on bioluminescence (Wired UK)

“Researchers believe that fungi make light just as the firefly does, using a chemical mix of a compound called luciferin and an enzyme luciferase. However, scientists haven’t yet identified the luciferin and luciferase in fungi which glow at all times rather than in bursts as fireflies do”

Dang. When I read this title, I was hoping it was some symbiotic bacteria that was glowing and there’d be some cool story as to how the fungi take up the bacteria. Alas, the fungi produces its own glow. But then, quite interesting that its done with luciferase, like fireflies. A quick look at Luciferase in Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luciferase> shows that luciferase is found in quite divergent organisms.

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Predicting a Human Gut Microbiota’s Response to Diet in Gnotobiotic Mice

“A model community of 10 sequenced human gut bacteria was introduced into gnotobiotic mice, and changes in species abundance and microbial gene expression were measured in response to randomized perturbations of four defined ingredients in the host diet. From the responses, we developed a statistical model that predicted over 60% of the variation in species abundance evoked by diet perturbations, and we were able to identify which factors in the diet best explained changes seen for each community member. The approach is generally applicable, as shown by a follow-up study involving diets containing various mixtures of pureed human baby foods.”

Another great report I can’t read at the moment (no subscription). This sounds like a nice analysis of something everyone has been seeing. Looking to see effect of other diets, beyond the baby food tested.

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anti-mega at Interesting 2011

“The nature of the day was participatory, so instead of doing a presentation on stage (as I did at Interesting 2007), this time I attempted to get all 200ish people in the room trying, making and tasting things. By-the-by, this is also one of the hardest things I’ve done in years – scaling to 200 people took an awful amount of thinking and prep. Apologies if I’ve seemed scatty in the last few weeks.”

Always something fun and interesting from this guy. He’s a practical microbiologist too!

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The Dirty 11: Panel Names Pathogens That Pose Biggest Security Risk for Research – ScienceInsider

“A United States federal panel of scientists and security experts has identified 11 microorganisms that it wants designated as Tier 1 select agents, a new category of biological agents that would be subject to higher security standards than other pathogens and toxins used in biomedical research. The category would include anthrax, Ebola, Variola major and Variola minor, the Marburg virus, the virus that causes foot and mouth disease, and bacterial strains that produce the botulinum neurotoxin. At the same time, the panel has recommended dropping 19 pathogens and six toxins from the broader list of 82 agents that are currently governed by the select agent program.”

Fine by me. I’d never want to work with any of these in any case. And the “practical” uses aren’t necessarily the kinds of things I want to be practical with. Though, as with botox, what might we learn about medicine and biological mechanisms from these deadly bugs and viruses that might actually help us?

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ScienceShot: Why Wallabies Don’t Pass Methane Gas – ScienceNOW

“When cows digest food, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but when kangaroos chow down, their digestive tract is relatively methane-free. The difference comes down to one group of bacteria, new research suggests.”

How will this be applied to cattle to cut down on methane generation? Also (a question I have because I don’t have access to the paper), are there energy, efficiency, or source material requirement differences between a succinate- or methane-producing bugs? There might be reasons why wallabies have one and cows have the other.

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