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…

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…

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…

amoeba

The Root Cause

The Rhizosphere Around the roots of plants, there is a tiny world called the rhizosphere. While it may be small, it is not insignificant. In fact, the rhizosphere plays an important role in cycling carbon and nitrogen between bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and the plant roots themselves. The easiest way to see the rhizosphere is by collecting water that drips out the bottom of a flower pot. You don’t need anything more than about 100x magnification to see all the players (except the bacteria). Rhizosphere Players How does this little ecosystem work? Let’s start with the bacteria. Plants will release precious…

fecal transplants

Why Fecal Transplants

The Poop Post Oh yes, this is the post about poop. Or rather, doing fecal transplants. While it is a gross topic, your waste products say a lot about the health of your entire body system. Trillions of bacteria and yeast cells colonize your large intestine, skin, mouth, air ways, and vagina. They not only interact with your immune system, but they respond to the foods you eat, the soaps and lotions you use, and the environment you’re in. There are more foreign cells on/in you than your own cells, which perhaps, means that we should all re-evaluate what it…

sour milk

Lumps, Chunks, and Curds

Sour Milk When I was 7 years old and still living in Taiwan, I went with my mother to buy milk on a Sunday morning. It was September and the temperature rose from a soothing 25 degrees Celsius to a sultry 40 degrees Celsius in just a few hours. For reference, the human body tries to stay at a constant 37 degrees Celsius, so 40 degrees felt unbearable. Because my mom was a busy yet forgetful woman, she continued to add errands to our list of errands. The milk run turned into a grocery trip, turned into a quick visit…

Pink or Purple?

Small but Deadly Bacteria are small prokaryotic cells that play a big role in our lives. Most live on us harmlessly and the ones that make us sick aren’t doing it out of spite, they just want out of our bodies. In order to successfully treat bacterial infections, we must kill the bacteria; yet before we can kill them, we must first identify them. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest method is to perform a gram stain. Gram Who? The first rule in biology is: if there is a rule, there will always be an exception…