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Category: bacteria

Light-sensitive bacteria could save you during a heart attack

Heart attacks are frightening by themselves, but they're made worse by the potential for lasting damage. Even a brief interruption to blood flow could permanently destroy vital tissue that keeps your heart beating as usual. However, there might be a way to mitigate or even prevent that damage. Scientists have discovered that a light-sensitive bacteria, synechococcus elongatus, can keep oxygen coming in the midst of a heart attack. Much like a plant, the bacteria both draws on photosynthesis for energy and turns both CO2 and water into oxygen. If you expose it to light soon after the attack, you can maintain oxygen levels and increase the heart's blood-pumping ability after the attack is over.

In lab rats, the results were dramatic. Oxygen levels were 25 times higher 10 minutes after the attack, and the hearts pumped 60 percent more blood 45 minutes after the attack. If you could use this as an emergency treatment in humans, it could mean the difference between outright heart failure and a reasonably healthy patient.

The emphasis is on "if," however. It's easy to shine light into the small body of a rat; it's tougher to do that with humans, who have thicker heart muscles (and are much larger, of course). There's also the question of whether or not the bacteria are completely safe. Don't count on this solution reaching hospitals soon, if at all. Nonetheless, the discovery is promising: it suggests that there's a way to protect your heart against long-term harm even as doctors race to save you from the immediate threat.

Source: Science, Science Advances

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Biem is the first virtual sexual health service

 Talking about sexual health makes folks squeamish. While sexuality and dating have, for the most part, been taken care of by technology there isn’t much talk of sexual health online. Until Biem. Biem is an app and service that makes it easy to talk to a sexual healthcare representative and get tests taken. It also lets you anonymously notify sexual partners if something is amiss and… Read More
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Scientists take a big step toward creating custom organisms

Scientists dream of using custom organisms to fight illnesses or even build computers, but there's a problem: it's difficult to make the sweeping genetic changes that would give you exactly the lifeform you need. To that end, researchers have found a way to rewrite "large stretches" of genomes with synthetic DNA. The team modified salmonella bacteria by using step-by-step recombineering (that is, exchanging sequences between similar pieces of DNA) to patch in yeast-grown genes that were "amplified" to boost their quality. The result was salmonella with 1,557 replacements spread across 176 genes -- a huge change for a relatively simple organism.

The resulting bacteria appears to be largely healthy. It grows about as quickly as the completely natural variety, and there aren't any serious growth defects.

This is still early work, so you're not about to have customized bacteria coursing through your body any time soon. Salmonella is relatively easy to edit, and there's a big difference between a lab experiment and crafting bacteria that reliably produces a specific result. However, it's promising. Gene editing techniques like CRISPR don't have enough throughput to make these kinds of large-scale changes, and other methods are often slow and complicated -- this allows for quick yet drastic modifications. Simply put, this could help unlock the fuller potential of genetic engineering. Instead of making tiny tweaks, geneticists could rewrite DNA sections so large that the result is almost unrecognizable compared to the original.

Via: Reddit

Source: Oxford Academic

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Bacteria open vents in this shirt when you sweat

Fashion and tech are teaming up yet again. Engineers at MIT have designed a workout suit that responds to your body heat, according to a study published last week in Science Advances. The clothing, made from latex, is covered with thumbnail- to finger-sized ventilating flaps that open and close depending on how much heat your body puts out. But what's controlling the flaps isn't something you'll find weaved into your usual workout gear -- it's bacteria.

Bacteria and other biological cells can respond to humidity, expanding when it's high and shrinking as the air gets drier. The researchers found that microbial response to changes in humidity was strong enough to open pore-like holes in a running top, perfect for when athletes start to break a sweat.

During trials, the workout suit's flaps began to open around five minutes into a workout session, removing sweat from the body and lowering skin temperature right around the time the wearers said they began to feel hot. The placement of the ventilating flaps were designed using heat and sweat maps of the body so that bigger flaps were placed where the body releases the most heat.

And while you may find yourself worrying about wearing living fabric, you don't have to worry about the bacteria itself, which is harmless to humans whether it's on or inside the body.

The project, which was done with help from New Balance, also includes a shoe that would function in a similar way, removing sweat and cooling the bottom of the wearer's foot. Other ideas for this material include fluorescent bacteria that can light up when you exercise in the dark and odor-producing bacteria that can make you smell better post-workout. The researchers are now looking to team up with sportswear companies to bring their designs to market, but it's unclear when they'll be available for purchase.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Science Advances

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Bacteria could lead to cleaner methane power

Methane as a greenhouse gas isn't all that eco-friendly when used for power, but scientists might have a way to keep the damage to a minimum. Penn State researchers have crafted microbial fuel cells that can convert methane into electricity right at the well, without leaking loads of gas into the atmosphere by sending it through pipes. The team created a cocktail of bacteria (including a synthetic microbe you can't normally grow) that produces the necessary materials to grab and transport electrons from the methane. Not only is this a relatively clean process, the bacteria can run on waste products -- it might clean up the site as it generates power.

This definitely isn't ready for prime time. The current project only produces a thousandth of the electricity that you'd get from a methanol fuel cell. And of course, cleaning up methane power is really a stopgap solution on the way to wider use of renewable energy. But it's a start -- until it's realistic to ditch methane, anything that curbs its harmful emissions should be helpful.

Via: Reddit

Source: Penn State, Nature

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