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I went to the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, in Denver, Colorado, and I wanted to share some of the fascinating science that I experienced. So here's my summary of the first day!
Download Episode (6.45 MB, 7 minutes)
Section 1: I missed it because Denver is confusing and it took me so long to find parking. Apparently it was interesting, though, discussing how a certain bacterium, Caulobacter crescentus, divides into two daughter cells, one that holds onto a surface and the other that swims away.
Section 2: The Killers, the Cures, and the Limits of Life: Frontiers of Science in the Unseen World
Presented by Nathan D. Wolfe
I missed some of this section, but what I heard was interesting, about how endogenous retroviruses may have made mammalian development possible, and how significant portions of the microbial world may still be unknown.
Section 3: Engineering by Evolution
Presented by Frances Arnold
This was quite interesting. As an engineer, Dr. Arnold is interested in making cells and their enzymes do stuff, so she works on improving their abilities. There is tremendous diversity of amino acid sequences (i.e. proteins) in nature, but it represents only a small amount of the possible combinations of amino acids. Most such combinations are useless as enzymes, but a few are even more effective than anything (yet found) in nature. Dr. Arnold discussed how to find these combinations.
Here is the paper published about the heat-stable cellulases that I discussed: Wu and Arnold, 2013, Biotechnol. Bioeng. 110:1874 doi: 10.1002/bit.24864.