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TWiM 80 Letters

Bob writes:

Dear TWIM hosts,

I enjoyed episode 76, "Genetic biopixels and a pathogenic sweet tooth". I really enjoyed hearing about the course that Dr. Schaechter teaches and in particular the work his students did in developing the biosensor. I would like to recommend a couple of papers that a classmate in my differential equations class told me about. They can be found at Biomed Central and are open source which is great. The first is "Solving a Hamiltonian Path Problem with a bacterial computer", Jordan Baumgardner et al, J Biol. Engineering 2009, 3:11. The second was also published in the same journal, "Engineering bacteria to solve the Burnt Pancake Problem", Karmella A. Haynes et al, J. Biol. Engineering 2008,2:8.

A Hamiltonian Path Problem involves finding a route in a directed graph that starts at a node ( the beginning node) and visits all of the nodes in the graph exactly one time. Companies like FedEx solve these kinds of problems daily in determining the most economical and efficient routes for their delivery persons. Solutions to these types of problems are very complex and computationally intensive. The authors used E. coli that contained a Hin/hixC recombination system from S. typhimurium to randomly shuffle DNA segments as the computing system. They represented nodes in the graph as linked halves of two different genes encoding red or green fluorescent proteins. The bacterial populations displayed phenotypes that reflected random ordering of the edges of the graph. A Hamiltonian path was reported by fluorescing both red and green, resulting in yellow colonies. The Burnt Pancake Problem involves sorting a stack of distinct objects into proper order and orientation using the minimum number of manipulations. This paper describes a proof-of-concept of "in vivo" computation. volunteer

I enjoy so much listening to all of the TWIV, TWIM and TWIP podcasts. Since I've been working on my math degree I don't really have anyone to talk biology, biochemistry, etc with and I miss it. I'm down to the last 2 course before I'm finished, "Real Analysis" and "Probability". I'm hoping that I can find a lab to volunteer to help out in and I've been looking but so far no one has been too keen on having a 70 year old guy hanging out in the lab. Oh well, I have had been able to take some interesting breadth classes and just finished BIoInformatics. It was a trip to actually do sequence analysis and construct heat maps and run blasts! Anyone working on a machine to reverse aging I'm a willing volunteer.

Weather in Orange CA this week has been hot and dry. Today was 98 F, 37 C, 4% humidity, dew point 4 F, winds 20 - 30 mph. We have more of the same predicted for tomorrow and into the weekend. To windy to sail, to hot to just lay around at the beach, and with the winds the surf sucks. So good time to hole up inside in the air-conditioning and enjoy some episodes of TWIM.

Dr. Robert Kelley (Bob)

Katie writes:

Dear TWiM team,

I am currently studying for my Biology degree second year exams in the UK and have listened to my first TWiM podcast today. Id like to quickly thank you as the zombie plant topic made perfect outside reading for my plant exam in a few days! I’m about to tackle the paper now.

I will continue listening for more interesting topics!

Thanks so much,
Katie.

Mark writes:
Hi folks!

I'm giving a final exam right now, then flying out to Boston for ASMCUE/ASM. Maybe I will see some of you there!

I adore this concept of parasites/pathogens/symbionts altering the behavior of their hosts. Sounds like you all do, too!

Elio had some interesting ideas about viruses and behavior.

I know that folks are short on time, but the SF writer David Brin has an old story about this, called "The Giving Plague." It's online here:

http://www.davidbrin.com/givingplague.html

Here you have a virus that causes altruistic behavior! It reminds me of the story (I'm sure it's not true) about the fellow who survives rabies. After he recovers, he is asked why he tried to bite people. He thinks for a moment and replies "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Even though the virology may make you wince (I love SF, but the authors sometimes...well...play a little fast and loose with the actual world of science), I think you and your readers might enjoy Dave Brin's story.

I will be teaching a freshman writing course on symbioses and parasitism this Fall at my small liberal arts college, and you can rest assured I will be discussing this and related issues with them (including TWiP!). Happy for any suggestions or assistance out there!

As always, I so enjoy listening to your podcasts.

Best wishes,

Mark Martin

--
*******************************************************************
Mark O. Martin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biology
University of Puget Sound

Tim writes:

Dear Drs. Racaniello, Schaecter and Schmidt,

Thanks for the great episode on swabbing the environment around hospitals to check for prevalence of antibiotic resistant microbes. The idea of resistance spreading out from health care facilities seems very intuitive after hearing about it but I'd never thought of this before. It got me thinking about the number of other livestock farmers I know who have a family member that works in health care as well as helping on the farm. Could this be leading to increases in antibiotic resistant organisms in livestock or obviously vice versa?

I also found the practice of using antibiograms interesting. I had not known how doctors make decisions on which first course antibiotics to use. I will have to ask my veterinarian friends if there is an antibiogram equivalent in animal medicine.

Thanks again for another great episode and also for the TWIV bump for our AgSciToday podcast. It was much appreciated by Steph and I. Hope that nice late spring early summer weather has rolled in where you all are and that you have a few chances to get out and enjoy it. It's a balmy 18 C here in MN and finally not raining for once although it did just rain 1.25" the other day so we were due some decent weather. I'll also add a planting progress report despite that not being a typical feature on the show - we have around 60% of our hay fields seeded, 0% of our corn and 0% of our pasture ground interseeded. Usually those numbers would all be around 100% at this time. It's been another wet spring to say the least.

Tim Zweber
Zweber Farms
www.zweberfarms.com

 

 

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