Every woman I know has a squirt bottle of hand sanitizer, there are ad campaigns about washing your hand, and Lysol is never not in my kitchen. So much effort to get rid of bacteria. But what if we started using them for good, in the fight against cancer?
In a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE, a group led by Dr. Mark Tangney, of University College Cork in Ireland, has reported the use of genetically engineered bacteria being used to develop better tumor imaging techniques.
Image taken from Phillip and Samayoa, et. al. 2011
In the spirit of the bright lights and big ideas of the new year, I thought I would share a pretty cool story of ingenious genetic engineering published a few weeks ago in Nature.
A team led by Arthur Prindle and Phillip Samayoa in the lab of Jeff Hasty at UC San Diego has created a network to make bacteria synchronously glow like so many twinkling Christmas lights. (Image shows a still photo of one of these chips.) Continue reading →
I was pretty excited to get a new truck a few weeks ago. Chevy 1500 LT crew cab, V8, 300 horsepower, beautiful storm gray metallic. No, I’m not getting paid by Chevy (though I’m always open to offers)…more like I’m just smitten with the new toy. Or perhaps, I was until today when I had to fill ‘er up for the first time. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because Texas gas prices aren’t nearly as painfully high as in the rest of the country, but when a month’s gas is going to near my monthly truck payment…let’s just say it hurts.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I stumbled upon this story for yet another development in the alternative fuel world. I’d always thought that there had to be a way to use our biology knowledge to make bacteria do our bidding to benefit us. It turns out, UCLA researchers led by Dr. James C. Liao were (quite) a few steps ahead of me. In a paper published in the March issue of the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, they report on the creation of a genetically engineered form of E. coli that is capable of efficient production of butanol, a green alternative fuel source to ethanol and gasoline. Continue reading →
Skin infections? Nausea, vomiting dehydration? Fever, chills, low blood pressure? Toxic shock syndrome? Perhaps you should send your thanks to the Staphylococcus family of bacteria. I’m sure you’re all aware of the dreaded staph infection, which could lead to the aforementioned skin lesions, food poisoning, or a range of other problems. In fact, staph bugs are responsible for more deaths per year in the United States than HIV/AIDS. They are highly resilient little bugs that rapidly acquire antibiotic resistance, thus causing tremendous problems in hospitals throughout.
As you no doubt have heard, antibiotic resistance is a major hurdle that the field is working to tackle. Luckily, we have work being done like this recent study published in PLoS Pathogens that aims to combat this bug head on. It seems we may have a powerful new antibiotic that targets the bacteria’s ability to….recycle. Continue reading →