Post has attachment
Why Does Your Cat's Tongue Feel Like Sandpaper?

It's not vanity. For cats, staying clean is a matter of life and death. And their tongue, specially equipped for the job, is just one of the things that makes cats such successful predators.

Link to full article: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/02/28/why-does-your-cats-tongue-feel-like-sandpaper/

Links to researchers:
Alexis Noel, a mechanical engineering researcher at Georgia Tech: http://www.noel.gatech.edu/

Sunghwan “Sunny” Jung with Roman Stocker, Pedro Reis and Jeffrey Aristoff:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/330/6008/1231


Post has attachment
Scientists have discovered a new metabolic process, called syntrophic anaerobic photosynthesis, in which bacteria cooperate to support one another’s growth in oxygen-depleted environments. What’s the impact? This discovery reveals new possibilities for bioengineering microbial communities that could be used for waste treatment and bioenergy production. Learn more at https://goo.gl/Wg8oub.

* * *

Photosynthetic bacteria are major primary producers on Earth, using sunlight to convert inorganic compounds in the environment into more complex organic compounds that fuel all living systems on the planet. A team of researchers recently discovered a new microbial metabolic process, which they termed syntrophic anaerobic photosynthesis, and which could represent an important, widespread form of carbon metabolism in oxygen-depleted zones of poorly mixed freshwater lakes.

Almost all life on Earth relies directly or indirectly on primary production—the conversion of inorganic compounds in the environment into organic compounds that store chemical energy and fuel the activity of organisms. Nearly half the global primary productivity occurs through photosynthetic carbon dioxide (CO2) fixation by sulfur bacteria and cyanobacteria.

In oxygen-depleted environments, photosynthetic bacteria use inorganic compounds such as water, hydrogen gas and hydrogen sulfide to provide electrons needed to convert CO2 into organic compounds. These organic compounds also make their way into the food web, where they support the growth of heterotrophs—organisms that cannot manufacture their own food.

A recent study revealed a new metabolic process, called syntrophic anaerobic photosynthesis, in which photosynthetic and heterotrophic bacteria cooperate to support one another’s growth in oxygen-depleted environments. Researchers from +Washington State University, PNNL, China University of Geoscience, and Southern Illinois University made this discovery using the Quanta scanning electron microscope and the FEI Tecnai T-12 cryo-transmission electron microscope at the +Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at PNNL.

Their analysis revealed that a heterotrophic bacterial species, Geobacter sulfurreducens, directly transfers electrons to a photosynthetic bacterial species, Prosthecochloris aestuarii, which uses electrons to fix CO2 into cell material. At the same time, donating electrons allows G. sulfurreducens to support its own metabolic needs by converting acetate into CO2 and water. This potentially widespread, symbiotic form of metabolism, which links anaerobic photosynthesis directly to anaerobic respiration, could be harnessed to develop new strategies for waste treatment and bioenergy production.

Why is this important? The discovery of syntrophic anaerobic photosynthesis reveals new possibilities for bioengineering microbial communities that could be used for waste treatment and bioenergy production. 
Photo

Post has attachment
Why Does Your Cat's Tongue Feel Like Sandpaper?

It's not vanity. For cats, staying clean is a matter of life and death. And their tongue, specially equipped for the job, is just one of the things that makes cats such successful predators.

Link to full article: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/02/28/why-does-your-cats-tongue-feel-like-sandpaper/

Links to researchers:
Alexis Noel, a mechanical engineering researcher at Georgia Tech: http://www.noel.gatech.edu/

Sunghwan “Sunny” Jung with Roman Stocker, Pedro Reis and Jeffrey Aristoff:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/330/6008/1231

Post has attachment
Compared to healthy people, patients with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to see dramatic shifts in the make-up of the community of microbes in their gut. While research has shown there are differences in the gut microbiome in afflicted people, a recent study shows the biggest difference is in the way the microbiome fluctuates. The findings can help physicians and scientists better understand the disease and potentially offer new ways to track the disease and monitor patients. Learn more at https://goo.gl/txx47H.

* * *

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to see dramatic shifts in the make-up of the community of microbes in their gut than healthy people, according to the results of a study published online Feb. 13 in Nature Microbiology.

While scientists have known that there are differences in the bacteria and other microbes that make up the gut microbiome in IBD patients, this is one of the largest studies to watch the microbiome over a period of time. The findings indicate that the biggest difference in the microbiome of patients is the way it fluctuates — what the researchers call "volatile dysbiosis."

The results help physicians and scientists understand the disease more fully and potentially offer new ways to track the disease and monitor patients.

The findings come from a team of scientists from Sweden, Spain, Germany and the United States. Janet Jansson of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is the corresponding author of the paper.

"We know that there are some key beneficial microbes that are lower in number in people with inflammatory bowel disease. Sometimes the differences are quite substantial," said Jansson. "Our latest results show that patients affected by this condition also have a much less stable gut microbiome than healthy people."

IBD encompasses a group of diseases where the body's immune system attacks microbes in the gut, causing chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and giving rise to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. Many patients have periods when the condition causes minor problems, then flares up and becomes more serious. Medications such as powerful anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are common treatments, and surgery is an option in severe cases.

Scientists know that there are some differences in the microbiomes of patients with IBD patients compared to healthy people — for instance, patients generally have fewer beneficial microbes and they are more likely to carry bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli. But questions remain.

"It's important to know not just what microbes are present, but also to understand how the microbial community changes as patients' symptoms improve or worsen over time," said author Colin Brislawn, a PNNL scientist who contributed to the statistical analysis. "We explored the dynamic nature of the disease as it relates to the dynamic nature of the human gut microbiome."

To do the study, gastroenterologist Jonas Halfvarson of Örebro University in Sweden and colleagues studied 137 people for two years. Participants included patients with ulcerative colitis, colonic Crohn's disease, ileal Crohn's disease, and healthy controls. Physicians collected fecal samples from patients every three months for up to two years and monitored patients' symptoms. Overall 683 fecal samples were collected. Scientists then used genetic sequencing technology to identify the microbes in the samples.

The team found that in healthy people, the gut microbial community is much more consistent over time than in patients with IBD. Patients with IBD have dramatic shifts in their microbiomes, with some bacteria disappearing almost completely at times — something that rarely happened in the healthy people studied. In some IBD patients, more than half their microbiome was displaced by other microbes in just a few months. The biggest swings were seen in patients with ileal Crohn's disease who had had part of their intestine removed to alleviate their symptoms.

The scientists also noted that changes in medication to treat the disease affected the microbiome; for example, patients who had taken steroids as part of treatment had more fluctuations in their microbiome than patients who had not. And patients who were experiencing a flare-up in their symptoms were more likely to have dramatic fluctuations in their microbiome.

The scientists say the findings might one day contribute to the diagnosis of patients or allow physicians to follow the course of the disease and track the effectiveness of medication in patients more closely.

"The results are an important step in our aim to understand how the microbiome relates to the dynamics of inflammatory bowel disease," said Halfvarson. "Ultimately, manipulation of the microbiome, aiming to mimic the situation and the trajectories of healthy individuals, might become an attractive treatment strategy to maintain IBD patients in remission, especially if immunosuppressants such as corticosteroids can be avoided."

The study includes authors from PNNL, Örebro University in Sweden, the University of California at San Diego, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the Biodonostia Health Research Institute in Spain, and Juniata College in Pennsylvania.

The study was funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health. Additional support came from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, the Örebro University Hospital Research Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, and other organizations. 
Photo

Post has attachment
If Your Hands Could Smell, You’d Be an Octopus

Everyone knows that an octopus has eight arms. And similar to our arms, it uses them to grab things and move around. But that’s where the similarities end. Hundreds of suckers on each octopus arm give them abilities people can only dream about.

At the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, the Giant Pacific octopuses sometimes can be seen stretching out all eight arms at the same time. Each arm has up to 240 suckers running up and down its length.

“When there’s food in the water, and they’re ready for it,” said aquarist Alex Reiss, “they’ll have their arms stuck out like a flower, trying to get as much surface as possible.”

But the octopuses aren’t just using their arms to grab fish.

“The suckers are hands that also smell and taste,” said Rich Ross, senior biologist and octopus aquarist at the California Academy of Sciences across town. “They’re smelling the water with their suckers.”

Suckers are “very similar to our taste buds, from what little we know about them,” said University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill cephalopod biologist William Kier.

Read more: http://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/02/14/if-your-hands-could-smell-youd-be-an-octopus/

Aquarium of the Bay: http://www.aquariumofthebay.org/
California Academy of Sciences: http://calacademy.org/
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill cephalopod biologist William Kier: http://labs.bio.unc.edu/Kier/
Neurobiologist Binyamin Hochner, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: http://www.octopus.huji.ac.il/site/index.html

Post has attachment
Simply ending the land use is sufficient for forests to recover, planting trees is not faster or better

Global forest restoration targets have been set, yet policy makers and land managers lack guiding principles on how to invest limited resources to achieve them. We conducted a meta-analysis of 166 studies in naturally regenerating and actively restored forests worldwide to answer: (1) To what extent do floral and faunal abundance and diversity and biogeochemical functions recover? (2) Does recovery vary as a function of past land use, time since restoration, forest region, or precipitation? (3) Does active restoration result in more complete or faster recovery than passive restoration? Overall, forests showed a high level of recovery, but the time to recovery depended on the metric type measured, past land use, and region. Abundance recovered quickly and completely, whereas diversity recovered slower in tropical than in temperate forests. Biogeochemical functions recovered more slowly after agriculture than after logging or mining. Formerly logged sites were mostly passively restored and generally recovered quickly. Mined sites were nearly always actively restored using a combination of planting and either soil amendments or recontouring topography, which resulted in rapid recovery of the metrics evaluated. Actively restoring former agricultural land, primarily by planting trees, did not result in consistently faster or more complete recovery than passively restored sites. Our results suggest that simply ending the land use is sufficient for forests to recover in many cases, but more studies are needed that directly compare the value added of active versus passive restoration strategies in the same system. Investments in active restoration should be evaluated relative to the past land use, the natural resilience of the system, and the specific objectives of each project.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0171368

Post has attachment
Scientists have found more evidence that vitamin B12, a substance produced by only a few organisms but needed by nearly all, wields great power in the microbial world. The findings support the idea that B12 helps shape microbial communities – ubiquitous structures that affect energy and food production, the environment, human health, and many other processes. Read more at https://goo.gl/r9fpa4.

* * *

Constant jostling for precious commodities — money, oil, high-speed Internet access, our morning coffee — shapes the world we live in.

It's no different for microbes, where scientists have found more evidence that vitamin B12, a substance produced by only a few organisms but needed by nearly all of them, wields great power in the microbial world. The findings lend credence to the idea that B12 helps shape microbial communities — ubiquitous structures that affect energy and food production, the environment, human health, and many other processes.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report their findings about B12's clout this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Vitamin B12 has an importance to microbial communities even greater than has been anticipated," said chemist Aaron Wright, the corresponding author of the PNAS paper. "We're exploring the functions it controls and its importance for the organization of microbial communities."

Wright's team made the findings in a bacterium known as Halomonas sp. HL-48, a rare supplier of the vitamin in its microbial community. The sample in the study hails from a microbial mat — a community in which microbes band together in layers — in Hot Lake in northern Washington state. The Hot Lake microbial mat has dozens of community members, living together and trading nutrients like carbon and oxygen in hot, salty water, thick with growth of algae and other micro-organisms.

Scientists have known that vitamin B12 controls crucial genes and enzymes in microbes involved in building DNA and proteins. But several scientists, including Andrew Goodman at Yale and Michiko Taga at University of California at Berkeley, have found indications that B12 wields even broader influence.

Wright's team found that B12 interacts with 41 different proteins in the bacterium. They found that B12 is central to the regulation of folate, ubiquinone, and methionine — substances crucial to the ability of microbial cells to create energy, build proteins, repair DNA, and to grow. The findings about methionine show an expanded influence of B12 compared to what has been known. The vitamin also changes the instructions it sends to genes depending on whether it's day or night — not a surprise in a community of organisms for which light is a central driver.

"B12 is very expensive for any organism to make. It takes a lot of energy for a microbe to synthesize, since there are more than 30 biochemical steps required. That's a signal that the substance is highly valuable and carries out important functions," said Wright.

To make the findings, Wright's team created a chemical mimic of vitamin B12 that works just like the natural substance but which scientists can track more closely in living cells. Through a system called affinity-based protein profiling, Wright's group is able to tag the molecules to see precisely where they are active. Then the team uses techniques like mass spectrometry to identify and measure proteins of interest.

The work was funded by the +U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, with additional funding from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Academy of Sciences. The mass spectrometry-based measurements were performed at the +Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at PNNL. Authors of the paper also include scientists from the Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and Polytech Nice-Sophia.
Photo

Post has attachment
"The modified mask trapped viruses, but the salt was a game changer. Now when the virus-containing droplets entered the filter, they were absorbed onto the salt, forming a tiny solution containing the virus plus whatever amount of salt dissolved in the water from the droplet. When the water evaporated whatever amount of salt that had been dissolved in it began to crystallize. Just like crystal formation killed the vaccines he was working with, it also killed the viruses. "

Post has attachment
Rudolph’s Antlers Could Help Restore Mobility in Injured Humans

Every year, male members of the deer family — and females too, in the case of reindeer — perform a feat no other adult mammal can do. In about three months they grow an entirely new set of antlers, their iconic crown of bones.

“Every year the deer cast their antlers and they regenerate,” said Manuel Nieto-Díaz, a paleontologist-turned-neuroscientist based at the National Paraplegics Hospital, in Toledo, Spain. “Among mammals, it’s a unique process of complete regeneration.”

The nerves involved in this regeneration grow back at the same rate as the antlers. Their speed and ability to grow on their own make these nerves of great interest to scientists, who are investigating their ability to return mobility to damaged human limbs.

Male deer, elk, reindeer, and all other members of the cervid family use their antlers to fend off competitors and woo females, then shed them once mating season is over.

Link to full article: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2016/12/06/rudolphs-antlers-could-help-restore-mobility-in-injured-humans/

Link to research:
Manuel Nieto-Díaz, a paleontologist-turned-neuroscientist based at the National Paraplegics Hospital: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Manuel_Nieto-Diaz

Wolfgang Pita-Thomas, neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wolfgang_Pita-Thomas

Post has attachment
Genetics, birthplace and diet have a big effect on the make-up of the microbial community in the gut, according to research published in the journal Nature Microbiology. The findings represent an attempt to untangle the forces that shape the gut microbiome – which plays an important role in keeping us healthy. Read more at https://goo.gl/hN1rZV.

* *

In the study, scientists linked specific genes in an animal — in this case, a mouse — to the presence and abundance of specific microbes in its gut.

"We are starting to tease out the importance of different variables, like diet, genetics and the environment, on microbes in the gut," said PNNL's Janet Jansson, a corresponding author of the study. "It turns out that early life history and genetics both play a role."

Scientists studied more than 50,000 genetic variations in mice and ultimately identified more than 100 snippets that affect the population of microbes in the gut. Some of those genes in mice are very similar to human genes that are involved in the development of diseases like #arthritis , colon #cancer , Crohn's disease, celiac disease and #diabetes .

The abundance of one microbe in particular, a probiotic strain of Lactobacillales, was affected by several host genes and was linked to higher levels of important immune cells known as T-helper cells. These results support the key role of the microbiome in the body's immune response, and suggest the possibility that controlling the microbes in the gut could influence the immune system and disease vulnerability.

"We know the microbiome likely plays an important role in fighting infections," said first author Antoine Snijders of the Berkeley Lab. "We found that the level of T-helper cells in the blood of mice is well explained by the level of Lactobacillales in the gut. It's the same family of bacteria found in yogurt and very often used as a probiotic."

To do the research, the team drew upon a genetically diverse set of "collaborative cross" mice that capture the genetic variation in human populations. Scientists studied 30 strains of the mice, which were housed in two facilities with different environments for the first four weeks of their lives. The scientists took fecal samples from the mice to characterize their gut microbiomes before transferring them to a third facility.

The researchers found that the microbiome retained a clear microbial signature formed where the mice were first raised — effectively their "hometown." Moreover, that microbial trait carried over to the next generation, surprising the scientists.

"The early life environment is very important for the formation of an individual's microbiome," said Jian-Hua Mao, a corresponding author from Berkeley Lab. "The first dose of microbes one gets comes from the mom, and that remains a strong influence for a lifetime and even beyond."

In brief, the team found that:

Both genetics and early environment play a strong role in determining an organism's microbiome
* The genes in mice that were correlated to microbes in the gut are very similar to genes that are involved in many diseases in people

The researchers also found indications that moderate shifts in diet play a role in determining exactly what functions the microbes carry out in the gut.

"Our findings could have some exciting implications for people's health," said Jansson. "In the future, perhaps people could have designer diets, optimized according to their genes and their microbiome, to digest foods more effectively or to modulate their susceptibility to disease."

Other co-lead authors on this paper are Sasha Langley from +Berkeley Lab and Young-Mo Kim from PNNL. Thomas Metz at PNNL is also a co-corresponding author. The study also included work by scientists at the University of Washington.

The research was funded primarily by the Office of Naval Research. Additional funding came from Berkeley Lab's Microbes to Biomes and PNNL's Microbiomes in Transition initiatives.

The mice were created at the Systems Genetics Core Facility at the University of North Carolina. The team made metabolomic measurements at the +Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at PNNL.
Photo
Wait while more posts are being loaded