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News in Science Friday, 27 April 2012 AFP Primordial life After two decades of examining a microscopic algae-eater that lives in a lake in Norway, scientists have declared it to be one of the world's oldest living organisms and human's remotest relative. The elusive, single-cell creature evolved about a billion years ago and did not fit in any of the known categories of living organisms - it was not an animal, plant, parasite, fungus or alga, they say.
All of a sudden, DNA has no reason to feel special. For decades it seemed that only a handful of molecules could store genetic information and pass it on. But now synthetic biologists have discovered that six others can pull off the same trick, and there may be many more to find.
Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Fariss Samarrai: October 31, 2011 — A vampire-like bacteria that leeches onto specific other bacteria – including certain human pathogens – has the potential to serve as a living antibiotic for a range of infectious diseases, a new study indicates. The bacterium, Micavibrio aeruginosavorus, was discovered to inhabit wastewater nearly 30 years ago, but has not been extensively studied because it is difficult to culture and investigate using traditional microbiology techniques. However, biologists in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences , Martin Wu and graduate student Zhang Wang, have decoded its genome and are learning "how it makes its living," Wu said. The bacterium "makes its living" by seeking out prey – certain other bacteria – and then attaching itself to its victim's cell wall and essentially sucking out nutrients.
L.A. Cicero Christina Smolke Imagine if your doctor could look for cancer in your body just by checking for green glowing cells, alerting her to the presence of the disease. Imagine further that she could convince any cancerous cells in your body to commit suicide, while leaving your healthy cells unaffected. In Friday's issue of Science , a Stanford researcher reported engineered biological "devices" that could one day offer these kinds of diagnostic and treatment options.
NOAA Scientists Confirm BP Oil Spill Harms Dolphins and Deep-Sea Corals | Environment | English - StumbleUponS cientists Find Sick Dolphins and Deep-Water Corals in Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Zone Two groups of scientists say they have identified signs of poor health in dolphins and in deep-sea corals due to exposure to polluted water in the northern Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred nearly two years ago. The deadly April 2010 disaster is the worst off-shore oil spill in U.S. history. A team of biologists assessing the health of a resident pod of dolphins in the Gulf’s Barataria Bay say their preliminary findings indicate the marine mammals are suffering from low body weight, anemia, low blood sugar, and symptoms of liver and lung disease. Also, nearly half of the 32 dolphins they tested in mid-2011 have abnormally low levels of certain hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.
29 March 2012 Last updated at 11:06 GMT Biotechnology is back on the political agenda today with the launch of a field trial designed to assess a new variety of aphid repelling GM wheat. Scientists have used genetic engineering to add a peppermint plant gene to wheat that expresses an alarm pheromone that aphids associate with danger. It's the same smell that aphids themselves produce when they're under attack from a predator - warning other bugs to keep clear. And in one of those twists so often found in nature, the odour also attracts the aphids' natural predators - parasitic wasps and labybirds - resulting in a double whammy of fewer pests and more predators homing in on the crop.
Sign in to read: Sleeper cells: How to fight bacteria that play dead - 28 March 2012 - New Scientist - StumbleUponEditorial: " Antibiotics are wonder drugs no more " TAKE a lawnmower to a field of grass and, with the blades on the right setting, you can raze it to the ground. It might look brutal, but all you are removing is the leaves. The roots remain. After the mower is gone, the plants start to grow again and within a few days, the field is back. It now looks as if bacteria have a similar trick up their sleeve.
HUNDREDS of transplant patients could be at risk after foreign BACTERIA were found in the liquid used to preserve most donor organs. Viaspan is used when transporting kidneys, livers, pancreases and bowels around the country. Makers Bristol-Myers Squibb last night issued a recall of the product after recent tests on its production line revealed the presence of the bacteria Bacillus cereus.
Mar. 27, 2012 — When faced with life-or-death situations, bacteria -- and maybe even human cells -- use an extremely sophisticated version of "game theory" to consider their options and decide upon the best course of action, scientists reported in San Diego March 27. In a presentation at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said microbes "play" a version of the classic "Prisoner's Dilemma" game. José Onuchic, Ph.D., who headed the research team, said these and other new insights into the "chat" sessions that bacteria use to communicate among themselves -- information about cell stress, the colony density (quorum-sensing peptides) and the stress status and inclinations of neighboring cells (peptide pheromones) -- could have far-reaching medical applications. "Using this form of cell-to-cell communication, colonies of billions or trillions of bacteria can literally reach a consensus on actions that impact people," Onuchic explained.
The major difference between plant and animal cells is the photosynthetic process, which converts light energy into chemical energy. When light isn't available, energy is generated by breaking down carbohydrates and sugars, just as it is in animal and some bacterial cells. Two cellular organelles are responsible for these two processes: the chloroplasts for photosynthesis and the mitochondria for sugar breakdown.
When a hobby-store owner in Cincinnati sliced off his fingertip in 2005 while showing a customer why the motor on his model plane was dangerous, he went to the emergency room without the missing tip. He couldn't find it anywhere. The doctor bandaged the wound and recommended a skin graft to cover the top of his right-middle stub for cosmetic purposes, since nothing could be done to rebuild the finger.
When Worlds Collide: Micro Versus Macro Although humans have long observed the devastating effects of infectious diseases, the microscope made it possible to see the pathogens. Today, the genomics revolution lets scientists "see" the microbial world in greater detail, leading to custom-designed drugs and therapies. Despite advances in science and medicine, infectious diseases will continue to threaten human health.
Feb. 14, 2012 — A novel approach in the study of the development of mammalian embryos was reported on February 14 in the journal Nature Communications . The research, from the laboratory of Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of the University of Cambridge, enables scientists to view critical aspects of embryonic development which was previously unobservable. For several decades it has been possible to culture embryos from a single cell, the fertilised egg, to the blastocyst, a ball of some 64 cells all derived from the first by repeated rounds of cell division. In practical terms this has allowed the development of the in vitro fertilisation techniques that are used world-wide to assist fertility. It has also enabled scientists to learn much about these early stages of development during which cells take the very first decisions about their future.
A new generation of biologists embraces the do-it-yourself ethic of computer programming. Cathal Garvey, 26, poses in the biology laboratory he created in his mother's spare bedroom. Deirdre Brennan In a spare bedroom of his family's house in County Cork, Ireland, Cathal Garvey is repeating the feats that led to the dawn of the biotechnology age.