500 Million Year Old Bacteria Resurrected
Using a technique called “paleo-experimental evolution”, Georgia Tech researchers have brought a 500 million year old gene back to life. Betül Kaçar, astrobiologist and leader of the study, was able to achieve this remarkable feat of resurrection by splicing the ancient genetic sequence with modern Escherichia coli (E. Coli) bacteria, an abundant protein found in all known cellular life. The old and the new were hybridised it to create a “chimera”—a new, combined strain of bacteria—which then reproduced and re-evolved. Initially slow to grow, it has now survived over 1,000 brief generations and allows researchers to literally see evolution in action—to observe the different evolutionary trajectories, and whether these are always repeated or whether different choices can be made to achieve a different outcome. The team at Georgia Tech reported that some strains of the hybrid actually became more robust than the original, suggesting that it made smart mutations. Interestingly, the ancient bacteria’s adaptation didn’t bring it closer to the modern E. Coli—instead, it seemed to find a new evolutionary trajectory, giving interesting insight into how life on earth could have evolved differently. We won’t be resurrecting any dinosaurs soon, but this research could help us address long-standing questions in evolutionary and molecular biology.
I was reading through the comments that some people had left on this as they reshared it, and I wanted to point a couple things out:
These bacteria are not going to kill anyone. The strains of E. coli that we use regularly in labs are harmless cousins of the dangerous ones like O157:H7 (the one that makes “deadly hamburger meat”). They have been extensively crippled by having genes deleted and modified so that they do a few things very well (like make DNA and proteins for us to test) but actually are pretty weak and harmless. I mean, you have billions of E. coli in your lower intestine right now. They were named after it (“coli” = colon). You are still alive, I am almost 100% sure of that.
This bacterium is carrying one old gene in place of a new gene. It’s not a “resurrected” bacterium. Let’s say that there’s a gene now in humans that makes brown eyes. Well, Neanderthals had brown eyes, and used a similar gene to make ‘em that way. It would be like me taking the Neanderthal brown eye gene and putting in your genome, and then seeing what happens. In this case, several of the bacterium’s other genes adapted to fit the slightly modified new one. The old gene was for the most part exactly like the new one, except for a few key shapes and differences in the protein that it ended up making. Like a key that’s just one notch off. So every protein that the bacterium uses to latch on to this one had to adapt. That’s evolution. And it happened in this little test tube over just a few months.
I put weird genes in E. coli all the time and no one’s writing articles about me! The first parts of this experiment are Molecular Biology 101. It’s the evolution part that gets interesting.
This person really needs to put gloves on before playing with bacteria. Seriously. Is there a microbiologist out there that knows what kind of media that is?
Want something extra cool? Richard Lenski of Michigan State grew out E. coli for over 18 years, and 40,000 generations, and then sequenced them to find out how they evolved along the way. That’s dedication. Evolution in a bottle, at hyper-speed.
Via It's Okay To Be Smart
Muy interesante e ingenioso… sumamente útil en nuestro laboratorio.
Plant-Inspired Medicine: It’s Slippery and Sterile
Many people think of bacteria as little round or rod-shaped swimmies, free-floating like plankton in the sea. But that’s not true of most bacteria in nature. Much of the time, they exist in dense, carbohydrate-rich colonies called biofilms. From the gunk inside your pipes to the plaque on your teeth, these bacterial goop fortresses are very common, and very tough.
Antibiotics, heck, even bleach, have a hard time breaking through biofilms. And some of the dangerous bacteria that people fall victim to in hospitals use these biofilms to persist on tables, equipment and other surfaces.
A Harvard group has developed a way to line those surfaces with a durable, safe material that is so slippery that even ice can’t grow on it. It’s called SLIPS, appropriately, because scientists will do anything to nail down a cool acronym. It’s inspired by the surface of the carnivorous pitcher plant, a frictionless micro-structure that makes its insect prey fall in and never come out. Same for the bacteria. It’s so slippery that even the toughest microbes can’t grow on it.
Check out more of this nature-inspiring-technology story at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
(pitcher plant illustration by SpaceHunterZorg)
Scan Your Food For Bacteria With Your Cell Phone
Have you ever been tempted to order steak tartare but decided against it for fear of getting sick? This little cell phone scanner can take a look at it for you and let you know if it does in fact harbor any E. coli bacteria.(Details) www.neverfail.co
In Zero-G Static Electricity Walks On Water
Astronaut Don Pettit demonstrated the laws of static electricity on Space Station with the help of a water dropper and grandma’s sweater maker: knitting needle.
Para aquellos que tienen gatos y alguna vez se preguntaron, como desactivarlos… :)
“How to deactivate a cat”
For those that are like “what?” it is instinct for a cat to stop moving when picked up by the scruff of the neck, as that’s how a mother cat gets her kittens places.
Did you saw the video? Well, now imagine that the pills really do exist (or really close to that.). The video is about NZT (thallanylzirconio-methyl-tetrahydro-triazatriphenylene), a fictional drug that is able to unlock your full brain potential making you smarter. Pretty cool, ah? / ¿Vieron el video? Bueno, pues ahora imaginen que la píldora realmente exista (o algo muy parecido.). El video trata sobre NZT (thallanylzirconio-methyl-tetrahydro-triazatriphenylene), un medicamento ficticio que es capaz de activar todo el potencial cerebral, haciéndote más inteligente. ¿Súper nítido, no?
It turns out that Hilary Roberts for the Vancouver Sun, tell us about an interesting article: “Discovery could lead memory-enhancing pill out of realm of science fiction”. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that suppressing a molecule called PKR in the brains of mice improved the rodents’ memory function and learning abilities. / Resulta que Hilary Roberts para el Vancouver Sun, nos habla de un artículo interesante: “Discovery could lead memory-enhancing pill out of realm of science fiction”. Los investigadores de Baylor College of Medicine en Houston encontraron que la supresión de una molécula llamada PKR en los cerebros de ratones mejora de la función de la memoria y su capacidad de aprendizaje.
Researchers injected an inhibitor into some of the mice’s stomachs, finding the inhibitor worked to suppress PKR, he said. The success of the injections suggest an ingestible form of the memory-enhancing drug would likely work as well. / Los investigadores inyectaron un inhibidor en los estómagos de los ratones, encontrando que el inhibidor logró suprimir el PKR. El éxito de las inyecciones sugiere que una forma ingerible de la droga para mejorar la memoria es muy probable que funcione.
And the pill could, in theory, work on anyone, giving someone with normal brain functionality a superhuman memory, Costa-Mattioli said. But it’s not what he hopes comes from his lab’s discovery. / Y la píldora podría, en teoría, funcionar en cualquiera, dandole a alguien con una funcionalidad normal del cerebro una memoria sobrehumana, dijo Costa-Mattioli. Pero no es lo se espera que provenga del descubrimiento de su laboratorio.
Perhaps this future drug might not be as good as the NZT, but certainly at some point will be the closest. In fact, they are considering using it against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. But do not worry; there are already drugs that do not make you smarter, but they increase your concentration. These are currently used to treat ADHD, but also used by some students to cheat, forcing themselves to study without distractions before an important exam. It should be noted that the practice is not recommended because of the different side effects. But, Hey! relax; we still have that Think Gum® for the necessary motivation before every mental effort. / Quizás ésta futura droga no sea tan buena como el NZT, pero de seguro en algún momento será lo más cercano. En realidad, se considera usar la misma en contra de condiciones neurodegenerativas como el Alzheimer. Pero, no se preocupen, ya existen drogas que aunque no te hacen más inteligentes, si aumentan tu concentración (Vyvanse, Adderall, Ritalin, etc.). Éstas son actualmente utilizadas para tratar el ADHD, pero también por algunos estudiantes para hacer trampa y estudiar sin distracciones antes de un importante examen. Cabe recalcar que no es una práctica recomendada debido a los distintos efectos secundarios. Pero, Ey! relajados, aún tenemos Think Gum® para obtener esa necesaria motivación antes de cada esfuerzo mental.
This is the area I would like to work in a near future. Interesting finding. / En esta área es que me gustaría trabajar en un futuro cercano. Un hallazgo interesante.
Cell aging hack could be a breakthrough for longevity research
Humans have long sought the trick to being able to live forever, and more than a few disreputable corporations are willing to tell you that they’ve found the solution. A new paper in Nature, while limited in its scope, details some exciting findings in mice, and their implications for human immortality. Darren Baker of the Mayo Clinic was studying a protein called p16, a tumor inhibitor but also a marker that, when present in a cell, signals that the cell is at its replication limit. Unfortunately, the slowed down cells don’t just die and get flushed away, but instead linger and release inflammatory proteins.
Baker’s team, led by himself and Mayo Clinic gerontologist Jan van Deursen, started by engineering a mouse strain that aged unnaturally fast. When they inactivated p16 and other senescence-linked genes in embryonic mice, aging proceeded normally.
It hinted at the importance of cellular senescence, but wasn’t so convincing as if the mice had senesced over the course of their lives, then been treated. To accomplish this, Baker and van Deursen designed a fast-aging mouse strain that would, upon receiving a drug trigger, expel p16-producing cells from fatty tissues, muscles and eyes.
When the mice were given the drug, muscle wasting stopped. Cataracts didn’t grow. Health was maintained until their hearts, which were unaffected by the senescence-clearing hack, gave out.
Senescence “appears to be relevant,” said Sierra. “It plays a role in age-related diseases.”
The scientists have been careful to note the limits of their research and their findings, but the results are still promising and worthy of follow-up.
Buenas Noticias. Esperemos que continúe el desarrollo en ésta área. / Good News. Let us hope continuing development in this area.
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating condition where dopamine-producing cells (dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain) in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra die off. This region of the midbrain is important to basic movments, and the symptoms include tremors and shaking (like Michael J. Fox).
Although we still don’t know why they die, it’s long been a goal to try and replace these damaged neurons with healthy ones. Stem cells, you say?
Oh yeah, we’re all over that, as reported in Nature this week:
In a series of experiments, the team gave animals six injections of more than a million cells each, to parts of the brain affected by Parkinson’s. The neurons survived, formed new connections and restored lost movement in mouse, rat and monkey models of the disease, with no sign of tumour development. The improvement in monkeys was crucial, as the rodent brains required fewer working neurons to overcome their symptoms.
On the prospect of future human trials, Dr Studer said: “We now have the right cells, but to put them into humans requires them to be produced in a specialised facility rather than a laboratory, for safety reasons. We have removed the main biological bottleneck and now it’s an engineering problem.”
(via guardian.co.uk, image of dopamine-producing neural stem cells from Sonja Kriks/Lorenz Studer)
The Planetary Society developed the two-phase LIFE – Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment – to investigate the transpermia hypothesis, the idea that a living organism might survive a journey through space to Earth inside a meteorite. / La Sociedad Planetaria desarrolló en dos fases LIFE - Experimento de Vuelo Interplanetario Viviente (siglas en inglés) - para investigar la hipótesis de Transpermia, la idea de que un organismo vivo puede sobrevivir a un viaje por el espacio a la Tierra dentro de un meteorito.
This is an excellent initiative created by The Planetary Society and that it will travel aboard the Russian mission returning to the planet from the Martian moon Phobos. It will carry into space the following five organisms to see if they return safely to Earth. / Esta es una excelente iniciativa creada por La Sociedad Planetaria y que viajará a bordo de la misión Rusa con regreso al planeta desde la luna marciana Phobos. La misma, llevará al Espacio los siguientes cinco organismos, para ver si regresan a salvo a la Tierra.
Water Bears (Tardigrades)
Conan The Bacterium (Deinococcus radiodurans)
Average Bacteria (Bacillus subtilis)
Old Salty (Haloarcula marismortui) [Archaeon]
Fire Eater (Pyrococcus furiosus) [Archaeon]