Colonies 1 and 2

No one likes to be in crowded spaces, so when colonies reach a critical cell density, cells within the colony begin to lyse, dramatically changing the architecture of the colony. The colony on the left is a wild-type colony, while the colony on the right is a genetic mutant that exhibits an autolytic phenotype, that is the bacterium’s own enzymes “eat up” its cells. The … Continue reading Colonies 1 and 2

Colonies on a Plate

A single bacterial cell is invisible to the naked eye. As that single cell grows and divides into new cells, however, it forms a visible pile of bacteria. In microbiology, we call this pile of bacteria a colony. A colony’s appearance can indicate a lot about the bacterial cells within, such as how they utilize nutrients, if they carry genetic mutations, and how the bacterial … Continue reading Colonies on a Plate

Can we locate bacteria by listening to them?

An ultrasound is probably most popularly recognized as a doctor’s tool to peer into the womb and take a look at a growing fetus during a woman’s pregnancy. But what if sound could be used to take a look at even smaller things – like the microorganisms in your gut? Mikhail Shapiro’s research group at the California Institute of Technology has been able to track … Continue reading Can we locate bacteria by listening to them?

Expanding the genetic alphabet

Since the beginning of time, the genetic alphabet in all living things has consisted of 4 letters. Now, scientists have discovered a way to expand the genetic code to store and use orders of magnitude more information than ever before. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the cellular instructions for proteins: little machines in your cells that perform important functions. DNA normally contains 4 nucleotides (A, T, … Continue reading Expanding the genetic alphabet

Bacteria-killing viruses: an army of disease-fighters within us?

Ever wonder why we make snot? Mucus lines our respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, acting as a sticky glue that traps unwanted substances before they can get into the body. However, research from Jeremy Barr’s lab in Melbourne, Australia has shown that there might be a lot more to the story of snot. Barr and his team have found that mucus contains a far higher concentration … Continue reading Bacteria-killing viruses: an army of disease-fighters within us?

Bacteria May Help Protect Cancer Cells

Developing cancer drugs is challenging. Often, scientists will find a drug that kills cancer cells in a petri dish but fails to act on an actual tumor. Ravid Straussman from the Weizmann Institute of Science and Todd Golub from Harvard Medical School think that in situ, bacteria can protect cancer cells from drugs. To test their theory, Staussman and Golub mixed some healthy skin cells with cells from a … Continue reading Bacteria May Help Protect Cancer Cells