The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Spray on some friendly bacteria and skip the soap? (NYT) Plenty of people have tried the 'no-poo' method to switch from shampoos, but what about skipping everything, and adding some bacteria instead? We bathed without soap for a long time and antibacterial soap is really bad for us. AOBiome wants you to think Bacteria is the New Black.
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
It is a striking idea that one of the keys to good health may turn out to involve managing our internal fermentation. Having recently learned to manage several external fermentations — of bread and kimchi and beer — I know a little about the vagaries of that process. You depend on the microbes, and you do your best to align their interests with yours, mainly by feeding them the kinds of things they like to eat — good “substrate.” But absolute control of the process is too much to hope for. It’s a lot more like gardening than governing. The successful gardener has always known you don’t need to master the science of the soil, which is yet another hotbed of microbial fermentation, in order to nourish and nurture it. You just need to know what it likes to eat — basically, organic matter — and how, in a general way, to align your interests with the interests of the microbes and the plants. The gardener also discovers that, when pathogens or pests appear, chemical interventions “work,” that is, solve the immediate problem, but at a cost to the long-term health of the soil and the whole garden. The drive for absolute control leads to unanticipated forms of disorder.[more inside]
Increasing evidence suggests that the alarming rise in allergic and autoimmune disorders during the past few decades is at least partly attributable to our lack of exposure to microorganisms that once covered our food and us. [more inside]
A new study finds that re-usable grocery bags don't harbor sickening bacteria as much as previously found. Turns out, the previous study (June, 2010), which reported significant levels of sickness producing bacteria present in the bags they tested, was sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, an organization that represents the interests of the people who manufacture plastic bags. “A person eating an average bag of salad greens gets more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag from this study,” says an expert.
Fecal transplants have been used with success to treat C.difficile infections, often acquired in hospital or nursing homes and notoriously difficult to treat. They have also shown some efficacy in treatment of ulcerative colitis (pdf). [more inside]