auto-brewery syndrome

Auto-Brewery Syndrome

We all have bacteria and yeast that live in our gut and you’ve probably read about them here! For most of us, we live in relative harmony with these tiny guests. But sometimes, either due to our immune systems malfunctioning or lifestyle changes (like when we take antibiotics), yeast that ferment ethanol start to grow in our intestines. And that leads to auto-brewery syndrome. Not A 24/7 Party I know, it sounds like a dream right? You can brew your own alcohol! Unfortunately, people with auto-brewery syndrome live in a world where they are either drunk or hungover. This is…

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….

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…

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…