Microbiology

A team of researchers has developed a new model to study the motion patterns of bacteria in real time and to determine how these motions relate to communication within a bacterial colony.

The researchers chemically attached colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria to a microcantilever – a microscopic beam anchored at one end, similar to a diving board – thus coupling its motion to that of the bacteria. As the cantilever itself isn't doesn't generate any vibrations, or 'noise,' this allowed the researchers to monitor the colony's reactions to various stimuli in real time.


Yogurt with probiotics are one of the latest health fads, but no one is sure they are doing anything at all and, if they are, that it is helping. 

Probiotics are defined by marketing groups as "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host, beyond the common nutritional effects." Proponents believe they facilitate fiber digestion, might boost the immune system and prevent or treat diarrhea. Dozens of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are marketed in foods like yogurts and fermented milk products.
Imagine being able to go from the hottest of hots to the coldest of colds, and endure both extreme droughts, where 97% of your body water is gone, and airless vacuums such as space.

The African midge,  Polypedilum vanderplanki, can do all that and an international team deciphered the genetic mechanism that makes it invulnerable to these harsh conditions.

The midge is capable of anhydrobiosis, a unique state that allows an organism to survive after losing almost all of its body water, along with other severe conditions, such as extreme temperatures ranging from 90°C to -270°C, vacuums and high doses of radiation; all of which would be lethal to most other life forms.

Tiny single-cell organisms living underground could help with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, according to a paper in the ISME (Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology) Journal.
  This is good news for Americans, since the Obama administration has lost the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository application even more often than the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has lost the emails showing they targeted political opponents.

Bacteria with waste-eating properties have been discovered before, but in relatively pristine soils. This is the first time finding microbes that can survive in the very harsh conditions expected in radioactive waste disposal sites.



Soon to be grown for ornamental use only.Credit: Mark Nesbitt and Samuel Delwen, CC BY

By Luc Henry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne

Immunotoxins are targeted antibodies that go after deadly toxins like ricin.

In the quest to find targeted therapies for cancer - that kill cancer but spare the surrounding tissue, immunotoxins make perfect sense. But they have not succeeded in part because cancer cells share many molecules with normal cells and because it can be challenging to unlock the deadly chemical only after the antibody has homed to the diseased tissue.


In the search for enzymes that can break lignocellulose down into biofuel sugars under the extreme conditions of a refinery, researchers are investigating new ways to release plant sugars from lignin for the production of liquid transportation fuels. Sugars can be fermented into fuels once the woody matter comprised of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin is broken down, but lignocellulose is tough.

For various chemical reasons, all of which add up to cost-competitiveness, biorefineries could benefit if the production of biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass is carried out at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Celsius.

By Patrik Jones, Imperial College London

Converting renewable energy into electricity is one thing; converting it into fuel is quite another. The vast majority of global energy demand is for fuel, and a renewable source could help us heat our houses and travel efficiently long into the future. It might even mean we could avoid the conflicts that will arise while competing for the last remaining fossil fuels.

Human breast milk is nutrition for infants but it also contains a large number of bacterial species, including some opportunistic pathogens of humans. 


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that is also responsible for destroying the ozone layer. 

INRA researchers in Dijon have shown that the ability of soils to eliminate N2O can mainly be explained by the diversity and abundance of a new group of micro-organisms that are capable of transforming it into atmospheric nitrogen (N2). The results underline the importance of microbial diversity to the functioning of soils and the services they deliver.