algae

Holding Up the Line: RuBisCo

With all the extra CO2 we’ve been putting into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, the age of global warming is finally upon us. In our scramble to find new sources of energy, some scientists have turned to algae. The logic is there: plants take CO2 and make O2. More plants = less CO2. It’s even carbon neutral! Problem solved, right? A New Kind of Biofuel Algae are a promising source of alternative fuel because, in the right conditions, they grow fast and don’t take up a lot of space. Anyone who has ever had to spend a Saturday afternoon…

The CRISPR-Cas System

It’s about time I covered CRISPR, don’t you think? It’s the hottest topic in science since space-tardigrades! Once again, no, water bears can’t live in space naked, they have to be in a dry tun. Back to CRISPR though, this new gene editing technology isn’t actually new at all. Bacteria have been using it as an adaptive immune system to remember past viral infections. Some History and Terminology CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. They are exactly what their name says they are… In 1987, scientists noticed these repeating sequences in E. Coli and eventually, other scientists…

Nanoparticles

Tiny UPS… or something You’ve learned about phage therapy, quorum sensing and quorum quenching, which means, hello PhD! I’m just kidding, no grad student has the time to jump from topic to topic like this. But for us curious nerds, the next topic in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria is nanoparticles. Specifically, using them to deliver drugs. Sometimes, antibiotics don’t reach the cell because of the biofilm, and this physical problem requires a physical solution: tiny delivery systems. Nanoparticles Nanoparticles are usually some sort of metal or carbon polymer. They have a positive charge so that they can interact…

Quorum Sensing

Chattering Bacteria Ever notice how animals are able to communicate, move, hunt, and travel in large groups? Bacteria are no different. Quorum sensing, in the simplest sense, is bacteria chatter. Instead of using words, they use chemicals. Once these communication chemicals build up to a certain level, they affect gene expression and transcription. Antibiotic Resistance If you’ve been following along, you probably read about phage therapy, one of the novel ways to treat antibiotic resistance bacteria. As promised, I’m introducing another method: quorum sensing. The goal of quorum sensing research is to figure out how bacteria talk to each other….

sterilization

Sterilization of Milk

Ah! Milk on the Shelf If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you’ll notice something interesting. In the grocery stores, milk and eggs sit out in the aisles unrefrigerated. What kind of magic is this?! The secret to Europe’s room temperature dairy products is sterilization and vaccinations. Milk Bacteria While pasteurization kills most of the bacteria in milk, sterilization kills all the bacteria. It may not seem like a big difference, but without any living microorganisms in the milk, there‚Äôs no chance of it spoiling at room temperature. Milk can be stored at room temperature as long as the container is…

not lagers

The Lager Story

The German Lager Compared to the Belgians, German beers are rather monotonous. Instead of using ale yeast, lager yeast (a more chilled out yeast) is used in the brewing process. There are two historical events to thank for all this: a beer purity law and a duke. The law was called the Reinheitsgebot and it said that beer could only be made from barley, water, and hops. As for the duke, well, he really liked predictable beer flavors, so he insisted people only brew between September 29th and April 23rd. Lagering If you’re a baker, you’ll know that keeping ingredients…

the lambic

The Lambic: Belgian Microbe Magic

Cantillon Tucked away in a small alley in Brussels, there’s a brewery that still practices open fermentation. Hundreds of yeast and bacteria in the air (the “open” part) are responsible for brewing (the “fermentation” part) a very special kind of beer called the lambic. Unlike other breweries you may have visited, this one has no sterile steel tanks, no shiny floors, and no smell of disinfecting compounds. Spiderwebs cover the barrels, the ceiling, and all the other nooks and crannies. The arachnids are well fed by gnats and fruit flies swarming around the barrels of fermenting beer. Bungholes ooze with…

sugar alcohols

Sugar Alcohols

=O to -OH While there are many types of sugar substitutes out there, this post will focus on the sugar alcohols. First, what are sugar alcohols? Molecularly, sugar alcohols are sugars (glucose, fructose, etc.) that have their double-bonded oxygen hydrogenated. If you can’t picture that, it’s okay, here’s what it looks like: =O becomes -OHNow, this may not seem like a significant change to us, but it makes quite a difference in the sweetness and the fermentability of the sugar. Sugar alcohols are less sweet and the bacteria in your mouth are incapable of fermenting them; plus, they also don’t…

Chlamydomonas

One to(o) Many

Multicellular Evolution Theory Recently, a study showed that Chlamydomonas were capable for multicellular “evolution” when under predatory pressure. Basically, scientists set loose some hungry Paramecia into Chlamydomonas territory and things got stressful. I wanted to write a post about this because 1) you’ve seen videos and pictures of these microorganisms before and 2) it’s important to straighten out some misunderstandings about the results. Strength in Numbers Under the threat of predation, Chlamydomonas, usually flagellated and single-celled, will begin to form multicellular structures. Even after the threat was removed, they remained “multicellular”, though I prefer to call them “advanced colonies”. There…