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Obesity and the Microbiome
A large body of evidence is emerging showing that the microbiome has a role in obesity and I cover some...
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The very real danger of alfatoxins
Food products, especially harvested grains, need to be stored carefully. Proper management means storing...
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The 6th Edition of Through the Microscope is now available
The website, eBooks, and hard copy of Through the Microscope are now available. To purchase website access,...
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The stringent response can influence antibiotic resistance
Cancer is a horrible disease, killing over half a million people in the United States every year and...
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Gut disbiosys hinders the healing of spinal cord injuries
There has been a growing body of evidence that the microorganisms that live with us on our bodies deeply...
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Gut Microbes Can Split a Species

  For many years, scientists have defined speciation as an evolutionary event by which a new species arises due to genetic drift. However, a new study suggests that species may diverge because of the microbes in their gut, not their DNA. Biologists Seth Bordenstein and Robert Brucker of Vanderbilt University studied this phenomenon in three different species of parasitic jewel wasps, tiny insects that drill into fly pupae and allow their eggs to feed on the host. 

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Eliminating PRRSV in Pigs

  Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is costing farmers millions of dollars each year. Upon infection, farmers need to cull their herds due to slowed growth and reproductive issues. Although there is a vaccine available, it is not an ideal solution for this particular disease. The vaccine will not eradicate the virus, only lesson the impact of the disease on farms. Scientists are trying to determine the transmission of the disease, in order to solve the problem. A transmem...

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The Unculturables

  Unculturable bacteria are not necessarily uncharacterizable. Microbiological techniques, like PCR and DNA sequencing of "housekeeping" genes, has allowed scientists to continue to gain understand about microbes, whether or not they are culturable. However, the ability to fight human infections and develop cures requires these unculturables to become cultured, so the microorganisms can be grown and studied in laboratory settings.  The question remains, why are these or...

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Gut microbes’ role in species divergence

  It is well known that gut microbes play an important role in the health of many organisms.  Seth Bordenstein and Robert Brucker, biologists at Vanderbilt University, were curious to see what other effects these microbes may have on an organism.  They studied the role of microbes in three related species of parasitic jewel wasps.  Two of the species, Nasonia giraulti and N. longicornis, are closely related, whereas the third species, N. vitripennis, diverged about 1 million years a...

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Biodiversity in marine viruses

  While it is understandable that the majority of research on bacteriophages involve human illness and food spoilage, there is an enormous amount of viruses that prey on bacteria in the environment that are still undiscovered. These environmental bacteriophages are very important since they can direct many significant changes in conditions of the natural world such as the flux of carbon and oxygen levels. 

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Macrophage Creation Pathway

  Stem cell research is not only one of the most controversial topics in science, but also one of the most advanced forms of research available.  A stem cell is a cell that can differentiate into a diverse range of cells as well as regenerate into more stem cells. In order for this research to take off, more needs to be discovered about the pathways these stem cells use.  Biologists at CalTech have been investigating this topic through macrophages which stem from unspecialized blood...

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To eat or to be eaten? The complex lives of Dictyostelium discoideum and Pseudomonas fluorescens

  Dictyostelium discoideum is a eukaryotic microbe that lives a unique lifestyle that involves changing from a unicellular to multicellular organism. Recent studies have shown that not only is it unique in this aspect, but it is unique in that it actually cultivates its own food supply, being dubbed the world’s “smallest farmer” amongst microbiologists. This article is based on a recent study led by Debra Brock at the Washington Universty of St. Louis. Dictyostelium discoideum...

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Evolution On the Inside Track: How Viruses in Gut Bacteria Change Over Time

  The world is surrounded by microbes that interact with one another competitively or symbiotically, creating a dynamic environment. These interactions occur everywhere, even in our own digestive system. Microbes swarm around the digestive tracts and a myriad of viruses modify key characteristics in bacteria, molding the bacterial population and metabolism. A study led by Fredric D. Bushman, a microbiology professor at University of Pennsylvania, looked at interactions between virus and bacteria i...

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Viruses in both eukaryotes and archaea, hijacking their way to success

  A recent study led by biologists from Indian University and Montana State University has found a connection between viruses that infect eukaryotes and viruses that infect archaea growing in volcanic springs (article).  Viruses like HIV and Ebola that infect eukaryotic cells and the virus Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus (STIV) that infects Sulfolobus sofataricus, an archaea found in volcanic springs, share a common feature; they both must hijack the same set of proteins found in their...

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Alterations of the Human Genome as a Result of Cholera

  Cholera is a deadly disease that is present in many third world countries, including Bangladesh and India.  The disease has been infecting people for thousands of years, meaning it is more likely to be causing evolutionary changes in humans, compared to newly emerged diseases.   Sure enough, researchers from Massachusetts and Bangladesh have found that the human genome has evolved in people who are more likely to contract cholera.  Regina LaRocque, an infectious disea...

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