A little headache

I have a headache today. Actually it’s been with me for the last 5 days. Maybe it’s too much stress. When I wake up in the morning I feel okay, but as the day goes on I feel it creeping. It climbs from the base of my neck and settles at the back of my skull. Being that we live in the information age, I did Google it. Most likely it’s a tension headache, that’s what WebMD said. My wife is worried about me, but I tell her its fine and it’s just a little stress.  I want control over too many things in my life. I should learn to give up a little control.

Leaving for work this morning, my wife held my hand, and gave me a big kiss and a big smile. Thank you Princess. So I have a little headache. I’ll live.

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Too much science, not enough communication

I have not written in a while. Mostly because I have been busy and partly because I don’t know what to write about. Since I joined Twitter, I have been exposed to so much information so quickly that its hard to focus. I need to get a better handle on all the input in my brain. Today I decided to write about something that has been on my mind. The last few years I have been working hard doing science experiments and not spending enough time in learning to communicate better. I have neglected a part of science that I know is important; communication. Who cares if you discover something wonderful, if you cannot effectively communicate your discovery. I must learn to communicate better. That’s a big reason why I decided to start this blog.

Taking on this new challenge, some posts will be microbiology related and some not. But the goal will always be to become a better writer/communicator.

Your life brought to you by another microbe!..Again!

Another example of the complexity and interconnectedness of life; a marine microbe initiates metamorphosis and settlement of the larva of a marine invertebrate.

The little larva is floating along in the ocean looking for a place to settle and start a family. How does it decide when and where to do this? It’s thought that cues from marine biofilms consisting of various bacteria are involved. In this case, the larva floating along in the ocean is that of the tubeworm Hydroides elegans, and the bacterium associated with the biofilm is Pseudoalteromonas luteoviolacea.  So how does the interaction between organisms go down? Well, some folks at Cal Tech and their colleagues may have discovered a piece of the puzzle.

Previously the scientists had figured out that if P. luteoviolacea were not part of the biofilm then the larva would not go through its metamorphosis. So they started examining the bacterium. They started looking through the genome and found a set of genes, that when deleted, resulted in no response from the larva. Interesting! How does a gene in a bacterium dictate the actions of an invertebrate larva swimming in the ocean?!

After many more hours of science they figured out that the genes were a blue print for a needle-like structure, termed MAC (Metamorphosis Associated Contractile structure). Once the microbe produces the MAC’s, it goes through self-lysis (still not known why they do this), and release the MAC’s into the environment. The floating MAC’s then interact with the larva and initiate settlement and metamorphosis. Though this process is beneficial for the larva to grow and mature, it is unclear what the benefit is for the bacterium, or biofilm. Furthermore, mac-like genes have been found in other microbes, hinting this pathway may also be important for other marine invertebrates. Further studies from the group at Cal Tech should reveal some fascinating findings!

As in all scientific endeavors, one answer produces two more questions, here are few that the scientist are trying answer next:

1)    What is the interaction between the MAC and the larva?

2)    Is the interaction beneficial for the microbe?

3)    Do the MAC transport some peptide/molecule to the larva?

4)    …Or maybe the bacterium just shoots the larva with its cupid arrow and they come to love each other in a very special way!

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Microbe of the week….Geobacter!

Geobacter…Perhaps one of the best examples of the connection between the biosphere (life) and the lithosphere (rocks). For all those “Zen masters” that philosophize on the connection between “life” and “dust”, look to Geobacter!

First isolated from the Potomac River in the mid 1980’s, but since then Geobacter has been detected in various environments. So why is it such a fascinating microbe?

Imagine this: To produce energy, we humans eat food (organic matter) and breathe oxygen (aerobic respiration).  The chain that links these processes is the electron. If that link is broken (the flow of electrons is stopped!) we do not produce energy and die! Well Geobacter had other ideas!

Geobacter is an old soul, from the days when there was little to no oxygen on our wonderful planet (couple billion years ago). Yet, life was around and it thrived. The first part was the same, “organic matter” was still a food option, but there was none to little oxygen. So what do you breathe to keep the electrons moving and stay alive? Geobacter evolved to “breath” iron containing rocks. Well maybe not really “breath” as you or I would, but a process to keep the electrons moving to a final destination, instead of oxygen, rocks! So how does Geobacter do this? They produce long “wires” that find and attach to iron containing rocks, and the electrons flow to the rocks just like electricity flows through the wires in your house!

So who needs oxygen when you have wires for arms…not Geobacter!

 For more information on this microbe visit…. http://www.geobacter.org/

G.metallidreducens Uran-abbau Bac 3600:1

http://www.geobacter.org/…Thank you!

More microbes for everyone!

Agriculture, food, medicine, health, fuel, environmental remediation…microbes have a huge impact on these aspects of our lives and many more. Yet young people, or even old curious people, are not readily exposed to this information. We need more microbes in the classroom…and further, we need microbes in museums! No, not like germs spread all over the computer or desk, or little Timmy coughing up a lung with his elementary school tour group at the local museum. And not just cool pictures of alien looking bags of goop! I’m talking about experiments that show kids the power of the microbe. Not experiments that take weeks, but experiments that show results in under an hour. So what shall we do?

Lets get microb-ized!

Today, January 7th 2014, is when I will start this. To read, learn, share and excite my self and whom ever else happens to be passing by, about the extra-ordinary microbe. Dr. Bonnie Bassler gives a great overview of why microbes are so important.