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Even Bacteria Get Lonely

Humans in solitary confinement can go crazy, talking to themselves and trying to break free. Now scientists from New Mexico and New Hampshire are reporting that bacteria locked in solitary confinement know they are locked up, talk to themselves, and try to break free of their imprisonment.

The research could have important health implications, from how an individual bacterium can trigger full-blown infections to how a single human cancer cell can metastasize into a deadly tumor.

"There are many real-world situations where bacteria find themselves alone," said Jeff Brinker, a scientist at the University of New Mexico and co-author of a recent paper in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. "When the bacteria are confined they turn on these virulence pathways," causing infections.

A human locked up in solitary confinement can see the walls around them, touch their rough surfaces, hear their pleas and curses echoing around the cell. Bacteria lack these senses, but they do have excellent noses. They smell the walls around them, using a chemical process known as quorum sensing.
 
 

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