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Retrospective, June 2013

We continue our semi-annual ritual and post this quick tour of our blog posts published since December, 2012.

Pictures Considered

Our new section dealing with “pictures that made a difference but may be nearly forgotten by now” seems to be off to a good start. Please send us suggestions of... Read More

Scientists think mysterious virus could be a signal of a weak immune system

Genomic analysis of transplant patients finds an opportunistic microorganism whose elevated presence could be used an indicator in treatment.

More than 260,000 Americans are alive today thanks to transplant operations that have replaced their failing kidneys, hearts, lungs or livers with hea... Read More

Mapping The Hidden Universe In Your Kitchen

On a recent morning, Noah Fierer, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, found himself standing 1,000 feet above the farmland of eastern Colorado. He was perched near the pinnacle of the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory, a cellphone-tower-like spir... Read More

Harvard scientists control cells following transplantation, from the inside out

Harvard stem cells scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT can now engineer cells that are more easily controlled following transplantation, potentially making cell therapies, hundreds of which are currently in clinical trials across the United States, more functional and efficient.
... Read More

Mutant wheat fungus alarms food experts

JOHANNESBURG, 2 April 2014 (IRIN) - Outbreaks of a deadly fungal disease in wheat crops in Germany and Ethiopia in 2013 have had the scientific community buzzing over the threat posed to global food security. Wheat stem rust, also known as wheat black rust, is often referred to as the “polio of... Read More

Termite digestive-tract microorganisms: A resource to fuel the future

With increasing attention toward generating cost-effective biochemical conversion methods for producing biofuels, it helps to follow the leaders who have perfected the process. The mere Reticulitermes flavipes, or eastern subterranean termite, a famous feaster of lignocellulosic plant materials ... Read More

Fixing 'Misfolded' Proteins for New Drug Treatments (NPR Podcast)

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers were able to fix "misfolded" proteins and restore their function in mice. Lead researcher Michael Conn discusses how to mend an incorrectly folded protein and what this may mean for developing future therapies for a va... Read More

Why Scientists Are Trying Viruses To Beat Back Bacteria

Not all viruses are bad for us. Some of them might even help up us fight off bacterial infections someday.

Naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages attack specific types of bacteria. So researchers at the University of Leicester decided to try and take advantage of phages' bacteria-d... Read More

How zinc starves lethal bacteria to stop infection

Australian researchers have found that zinc can 'starve' one of the world's most deadly bacteria by preventing its uptake of an essential metal.

The finding, by infectious disease researchers at the University of Adelaide and The University of Queensland, opens the way for further work to des... Read More

Artificial Cells and Salad Dressing

A University of California, Riverside assistant professor of engineering is among a group of researchers that have made important discoveries regarding the behavior of a synthetic molecular oscillator, which could serve as a timekeeping device to control artificial cells. Read More

Microbial ‘Starstuff’

Famed astronomer and writer Carl Sagan said in his book Cosmos: “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” And so are microbes, we must add. To understand the s... Read More

Innovative vaccine in trial for advanced ovarian cancer

A clinical trial of an innovative vaccine is occurring. The vaccine could offer hope to patients with advanced ovarian cancer. The vaccine, which is derived from the patient's tumor cells, is designed to jumpstart the patient's immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

Ovarian cancer is ... Read More

Dual virus-receptor duel

Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites: they must enter a cell to reproduce. To gain access to the cell interior, a virus must first bind to one or more specific receptor molecules on the cell surface. Cell receptors for viruses do not exist only to serve viruses: they also have cellular f... Read More

The Gut Microbiome and The Origin of Species

Excerpt from Science Now "Gut Microbes Can Split a Species"; see link above to read the Science article

Here's how to create a new species. Put animals—say finches—from the same species on separate islands and let them do their thing for many, many generations. Over time, each group will ada... Read More

Teaching Pseudomonas to Endocytose

I offer this as an echo to Elio's post from last October, Teaching E. coli to Endocytose. There Elio reported the recent education of E. coli by the heterologous expression of a mammalian gene. I tell of a bacterium instructed by a phage.

Apparently Pseudomonas phage φ6 missed that classic 19... Read More

Intestinal Bacteria Influence Food Transit Through the Gut

Food transit through the small intestine affects the body's absorption of nutrients and, consequently, our health. The discovery that food transit time is regulated by a hormone indicates new ways to increase the intestinal absorption of nutrients, and thus potentially treat malnutrition.

One... Read More

Blood test can determine whether illness is caused by virus or bacteria

Researchers at Duke University say they have created a blood test that can determine whether a person's respiratory illness is caused by a bacterial infection or a virus, with over 90 percent accuracy.

What's more, the test only takes about 12 hours to get results. Current methods take severa... Read More

Randomized Treatments May Be More Effective at Stopping Disease Outbreaks

Mathematicians have found that by varying the timing of treatments, doctors may be able to increase the odds that a disease outbreak will die off suddenly.

Herding cats is a cakewalk compared with getting people to take flu vaccine shots in the last weeks of summer—work, school, limited pharm... Read More

Microbes Swim to Hydrogen Gas

Scientists have long believed that microorganisms that produce methane swim toward the hydrogen gas they need to stay alive, but it has been too hard to prove in the lab.

Montana State University researchers have now overcome those challenges, allowing them to verify it for the first time, sa... Read More

Discovery offers hope against deadly cat virus

What makes a harmless virus turn lethal? For the deadliest infectious disease in cats, Cornell scientists now know.

After gathering the world’s largest sample collection for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), they uncovered the holy grail of a 30-year quest for the mutation that turns it fa... Read More

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