No bacterium is an island.
Many people think of bacteria as tiny Lone Rangers, paddling their flagellar canoes across the desolate petri dish sea. But in “the wild”, bacteria exist as complex, interwoven, constantly competing social communities.
Every scoop of soil is a battlefield of chemical chatter. Species send out molecular messages-in-a-bottle that ride the waves of diffusion to their mates. Some even thread electrical cables between neighboring cells. Now, new research has identified elaborate shared membranes that let single cells swarm as a superorganism …
Check out my latest article for Wired all about a soil bacterium named Myxococcus xanthus. It’s under everyone’s feet right now, and it has developed one of the most elaborate physical webs ever witnessed in bacteria. That’s it up top, devouring a colony of E. coli using its patented rippling wave attack.
It’s a stealth communication network that lets them hunt like a tiny wolfpack. So cool. Plus I got to use a GIF, so double win.
Once you’re done with that, check out this great TED talk from Bonnie Bassler all about how bacteria communicate.
The excretory system of Schmidtea mediterranea, a small freshwater flatworm. S. mediterranea have a remarkable ability to regenerate. Cutting one in half will generate two fully functional flatworms; cutting it into quarters will generate four; and so on. In fact, scientists have shown that even a single cell from one flatworm is capable of regenerating an entire organism.
Image by Hanh Vu, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri.
Embryonic Rat Thoracic Aorta Medial Layer Myoblast Cells (A-10 Line)
A culture of adherent A-10 rat thoracic aorta cells was fluorescently triple-labeled with MitoTracker Red CMXRos, Alexa Fluor 350 conjugated to phalloidin, and SYTOX Green, targeting the mitochondria, filamentous actin network, and nuclei, respectively.
In this image, the bright red mitochondrial network is superimposed on a deep blue actin cytoskeletal framework centered around the green nuclei.
During replication, DNA becomes “overwound” ahead of the replication fork. The topological tension must be relieved for DNA replication to succeed. This is the job of topoisomerases. The enzyme binds to “tense” DNA and cleaves the phosphate backbone; the DNA unwinds and, then topoisomerase reseals the break.
The compound mitoxantrone inhibits Type II topoisomerases. It is used to treat metastatic breast cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The combination of mitoxantrone and prednisone is approved as a second-line treatment for metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer, too.
Image: Crystallized mitoxantrone visualized under polarized light. A few drops of the drug are placed on a microscope slide and dry in the presence of a dye, such as Bromophenol Blue. The crystals are then imaged with a Nikon Labophot 2 microscope, magnification 25X to 100X. Polarized light creates the colors. Learn more about Dr. Oechsli’s artwork.
Wow, this is just too cool. A material, made from artificial DNA, that “remembers” its shape after being dehydrated? Sounds like the beginnings of some kind of awesome shape-shifting, amorphous robot to me! Sorta:
Mysterious Material Remembers Its Shape: “The new stuff is a metamaterial, scientists’ word for a lab-made material that has properties uncommon in nature. Even among metamaterials, however, this material is unusual — it’s composed of artificial DNA, while most metamaterials are composed of nonbiological chemicals such as silicon or copper. Its creators are calling it a “meta-hydrogel.”
Posting about this again because it is awesome.
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