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Protein Packing

Harvard University and XVIVO have come together again (Previouslyw/ a commercial focus, Previouslierw/an Academic focus) to add to the growing series of scientific animations for BioVisions -- Harvard's multimedia lab in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. 'Protein Packing' strives to more accurately depict the molecular chaos in each and every cell, with proteins jittering around in what may seem like random motion. Proteins occupy roughly 40% of the cytoplasm, creating an environment that risks unintentional interaction and aggregation. Via diffusion and motor protein transport, these molecules are directed to sites where they are needed.
Much of this is no doubt inspired by the beautiful art and explained illustrations of David Goodsell, a biologist at Scripps who has been accurately portraying the crowdedness of the cellular landscape for a long time now.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Apr 10, 2014 - 9 comments

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 26, 2013 - 103 comments

As Paracelsus put it, "the dose makes the poison."

Dr Bruce Ames, a toxicologist and one of the world's most cited scientists, discusses the impact of his Ames test, "toxic chemicals," and scaremongering [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 6, 2013 - 22 comments

No Shit

Can fecal transplants save 14,000 lives a year?
posted by Artw on May 26, 2013 - 51 comments

The players in a mutualistic symbiosis: insects, bacteria, viruses, and virulence genes.

One of the many problems farmers of various kinds of legumes need to deal with is the pea aphid. They reproduce incredibly fast and live by sucking the sap out of the plants, an electron micrograph of one in action. However, while they are terrifying parasites of legumes, they have their own yet more horrific parasites, a parasitoid wasp. Here is a really nice close up picture of one doing its thing, a video of the act, and here is a brain meltingly horrific video of a dissection of the mummified aftermath 8 days later. Essentially, these wasps deposit their eggs in a pea aphid and the growing larva feeds on it, developing there for about a week, and then consuming the host from the inside out like a Xenomorph. When it’s done, the wasp larva dries the aphid’s cuticle into a papery brittle shell and an adult wasp emerges from the aphid mummy. Legume farmers love them, and you can even order their mummies online these days. However, farmers noticed that the wasps didn't work as effectively on all of the aphids, and so researchers went to work figuring out why. It turns out that all aphids have a primary bacterial endosymbiont living inside their cells, in addition to and just like a mitochondria, and that many have some combination of five other secondary endosymbionts. Interestingly, two of those other five, Hamiltonella defensa and Serratia symbiotica have been shown to confer varying levels of resistance to the parasitoid wasp, allowing the aphid to survive infection. However, it turns out that there is yet one more layer to this story, [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 22, 2012 - 50 comments

Constitutive formation of caveolae in a bacterium.

Constitutive formation of caveolae in a bacterium. [Full Text]
Caveolin plays an essential role in the formation of characteristic surface pits, caveolae, which cover the surface of many animal cells. The fundamental principles of caveola formation are only slowly emerging. Here we show that caveolin expression in a prokaryotic host lacking any intracellular membrane system drives the formation of cytoplasmic vesicles containing polymeric caveolin. Vesicle formation is induced by expression of wild-type caveolins, but not caveolin mutants defective in caveola formation in mammalian systems. In addition, cryoelectron tomography shows that the induced membrane domains are equivalent in size and caveolin density to native caveolae and reveals a possible polyhedral arrangement of caveolin oligomers. The caveolin-induced vesicles or heterologous caveolae (h-caveolae) form by budding in from the cytoplasmic membrane, generating a membrane domain with distinct lipid composition. Periplasmic solutes are encapsulated in the budding h-caveola, and purified h-caveolae can be tailored to be targeted to specific cells of interest.
Elio Schaechter writes in plain English about how fantastically amazing and unexpected the researchers actually pulling this off is, and he also talks about it in more detail in his podcast.
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 18, 2012 - 22 comments

Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide...

Since 1977, Nikon has held a Small World Photomicrography Competition, to showcase that which cannot be seen with the naked eye. This year's winner will be announced in November, but until October 31, we have been invited to vote for one of this years' 115 finalists to receive the 'Small World Popular Vote Award.' [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 26, 2011 - 13 comments

Belly Button Wonderland

"Out of 53 species [of bacteria found in my belly button], 35 were present in only 10 or fewer other volunteers. And 17 species in my navel didn’t show up in anyone else. In the column for notes in Dunn’s spreadsheet, he’s annotated these species with scientific descriptions like “weird one” and “totally crazy.” Several species I’ve got, such as Marimonas, have only been found in the ocean before. I am particular baffled that I carry a species called Georgenia. Before me, scientists had only found it living in the soil. In Japan." (via Sullivan)
posted by LarryC on Jul 5, 2011 - 74 comments

Eat the Titanic? Or, Biological Relay Chat.

In 2000, microbial ecologist Roy Cullimore and Charles Pellegrino (author of Ghosts of the Titanic) discovered that the Titanic was being eaten by an extremeophile super-organism, transforming the steel into huge pillars of rust. [Previously, regarding the Titanic.] [more inside]
posted by mephron on Apr 18, 2011 - 17 comments

Gingers and daywalkers rejoice!

The human body is made up of more bacteria cells than human cells. Now, researchers at Harvard have isolated the genes responsible for producing amino acids that can block ultraviolet light and managed get E. coli bacteria to produce them too. Can I interest you in some sunblocking bacteria living on your skin?
posted by T.D. Strange on Sep 3, 2010 - 40 comments

The Linux Gene Network

Yale scientists analogize the Linux call graph with the E. coli gene regulatory network in an open access PNAS article. Carl Zimmer explores the implications of network design versus evolution, suggesting that a more modular architecture in bacteria leads to a rugged (i.e. robust) system that does not "crash" like a computer.
posted by jjray on May 5, 2010 - 26 comments

A new branch of animal life is discovered

Meet three new species of Loricifera, the first multicellular forms of life found that can live entirely without oxygen (figures and full article, PDF). [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 8, 2010 - 30 comments

Blood Tide

Blood Falls - The iron rich red liquid gushing from a buried Antarctica lake shows how life may have existed on a snowball Earth, or on Europa.
posted by Artw on Apr 18, 2009 - 52 comments

Discovering bacteria's amazing communication system

The secret, social lives of bacteria. "Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria 'talk' to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves." [Via]
posted by homunculus on Apr 10, 2009 - 52 comments

Why Do Beans Make You Fart?

ilovebacteria.com explains science to people who do not necessarily have a scientific background. You'll find a selection of DIY experiments like egg osmosis, and strange facts like the ever popular why does asparagus make your wee smell? And don't forget to meet the microbes.
posted by netbros on Jun 11, 2008 - 9 comments

Natural selection observed in a lab

In the 1980s, Richard Lenski hypothesized that his research team should be able to watch random mutations and natural selection taking place in a lab by observing a bacteria population over many generations. In 1988, beginning with a single bacterium, he started several replicate colonies. Recently, after 33,127 generations, his team has observed natural selection.
posted by Tehanu on Jun 10, 2008 - 55 comments

Life from scratch

Dr. Craig Venter, known for his role as a pioneer in the human genome project, has taken a major step towards creating life from scratch: transplanting the entire genome from one bacterium cell to another. Commence the ethics wars.
posted by charmston on Jun 28, 2007 - 32 comments

bacterial art

The Art of Edgar Lissel " Lissel works with bacteria, using their photo-tactical characteristics for his images."
posted by dhruva on Nov 15, 2006 - 2 comments

Fractal Bacteria

These images remind us never to underestimate our opponent. -- The science behind the art (.pdf). Fractal art by way of bacteria growin' in a petri dish. A few more images here.
posted by Gator on Mar 7, 2006 - 7 comments

The Bacteria Whisperer

The Bacteria Whisperer
“Bonnie Bassler discovered a secret about microbes that the science world has missed for centuries. The bugs are talking to each other. And plotting against us.”
posted by o2b on Mar 21, 2003 - 13 comments

Hitch a ride on a meteorite.

Hitch a ride on a meteorite. New evidence that bacteria could survive a trip between planets.
posted by homunculus on Jan 11, 2002 - 3 comments

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