Friday, February 12, 2016

Kansas State University biologist seeks to understand brain development

Biologists have long studied zebrafish as a developmental model for understanding the biology of chordates, e.g., animals with a notochord, hollow dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, endostyle, and post-anal tail. Chordates include mammals (us!), fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Dr. Thomas Mueller, research assistant professor in the Division of Biology, co-authored with Dr. Mario Wullimann, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, the "Atlas of Early Zebrafish Brain Development: A Tool for Molecular Neurogenetics – 2nd ed.” published by Elsevier.

Second MERS case confirmed in Thailand

Thailand has confirmed a second case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) disease in a traveler. The traveller was initially admitted to a private hospital on January 22, 2016, and has since been transferred to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute. Measures are being taken to trace all contacts during the journey to Bangkok. The first case was 7 months ago in another traveler from Oman. 

Bad Bug Book (2nd Edition)

The FDA has been publishing the Bad Bug Book for free online since 2005. It provides great information about the major bacterial, viral, and parasitic causes of foodborne illness. Also included are natural toxins (fungal-, animal-, plant-derived) that contaminate food and cause illness. Each chapter has a "consumer box" that provides non-technical information, in everyday language - what can make you sick and how to prevent it. Information about the etiology, morbidity, mortality, target populations, recent outbreaks, identification, and diagnosis of each pathogen/toxin is provided.

I helped write a textbook!

The textbook is designed specifically for Kansas State's Biology 198 Principles of Biology course. The course is taught using the studio approach and based on active learning. Typical enrollment approaches 1,500 students a year. The textbook is divided into 7 learning modules and unusually begins with the big picture of ecology and then steps back to cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, and energetics before ending with whole-organism plant and animal modules.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Update on MERS in South Korea

As of July 15-17, 2015, no new cases of MERS infection or new deaths related to MERS have been reported. So far, 186 MERS cases have been documented in South Korea, including 1 case in China attributed to the South Korean outbreak, with 36 related deaths. There are still 155 contacts being monitored. The median age of cases is 55 years old (16-87 years old), 59% of cases were men, and 14% are health care workers. All cases have been linked to a single chain of transmission and are associated with health care facilities.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

MERS Outbreak in Seoul, South Korea

While only 30 people have been confirmed to be infected with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), with 2 dead, South Korea has approximately 2,300 people in quarantine and 1,300 schools closed. Seoul police will enforce the quarantines and the Mayor may ask for city-wide self-quarantining. While human-to-human transmission is being seen, it is still not infectious enough to be considered a community-associated disease. To go pandemic, MERS would need to mutate so that it could spread easily between humans in the wider community.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gut Check on Parkinson’s Disease

Does the gut flora influence Parkinson’s disease or vice versa? Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland say there is a correlation between Parkinson’s disease and the gastrointestinal flora. As to cause and effect, that remains to be shown.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels - A Microbiologist's Perspective

The debate of our lifetime, no the 21st Century is raging!! Well, maybe not, but it's still an interesting microbiological question. Here's what you should know.

First off, don’t Google “hand dryers versus paper towels”. The manufacturers/retailers of both systems have bought up all of the search results and flood the search page with dubious, self-serving (self-profiting) websites and YouTube videos that look scientific, but aren’t. This is common for health- and food-related topics on the internet. Go to a reputable source of edited, peer-reviewed scientific publications, like PubMed, a website run by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. This is where taxpayer-funded medical research conducted at universities, colleges, and the National Institutes of Health is posted in online publications.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Study Finds Climate Change May Dramatically Reduce Wheat Production

Recent research at Kansas State University finds that in the coming decades at least 25% of the world's wheat production will be lost to extreme weather from climate change, if no adaptive measures are taken. Based on the 2012-2013 global wheat harvest of 701 million tons, the resulting temperature increase could result in 42 million tons less produced wheat. Crop ecophysiologists currently project a 6% decline in wheat production for each degree Celsius the temperature rises.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Update

So what’s the status of MERS virus and MERS virus in the US? First reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, the corona virus MERS spreads from infected people through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. There is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings. It causes a severe, acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath. The majority of disease is seen in the Arabian peninsula, with >900 people sickened and >300 killed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Watch Eosinophils Attack a Parasite

This video from 3 Minutes of Fun shows eosinophil granulocytes chemotaxing to an IgE-opsonized multicellular parasite. During a normal immune response to helminths, eosinophils degranulate and release cationic granule proteins (major basic protein [MBP], eosinophil cationic protein [ECP], eosinophil peroxidase [EPO], and eosinophil-derived neurotoxin [EDN]) to destroy pathogens too large to be endocytosed by phagocytes. They also induce mast cells and basophil granulocytes to degranulate, thus releasing histamine and proteolytic enzymes. 

Beautiful Mold Growing in Time-Lapse

Russian photographer Nick Lariontsev filmed this time-lapse showing how mold grows. This is a mixed group of Aspergillus fumigatus, Botrytis spp., Mucor spp., Trichoderma spp., and Cladosporium spp.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cellular Toggle Switch Could Herald An Anti-Aging Breakthrough

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a toggle switch for aging cells. By controlling the production of telomeres, it may be possible to keep healthy cells dividing and regenerating in old age. Most human cells can’t divide forever. Each time a cell divides, a cellular "timekeeper" at the ends of the chromosomes, known as a telomere, shortens. When the telomeres are shortened enough, cells are no longer able to divide, resulting in aging-related organ and tissue degeneration.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aquatilis Expedition

Aquatilis Expedition is a 3-year underwater journey utilizing the best in modern technology and digital imaging. Using a custom-made remotely-operated underwater robot with a built-in 4K camera, scientists are exploring the oceans. Focusing on zooplankton, they are refocusing many technologies used to explore Mars back to exploring our own unknown frontier, the oceans’ depths.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Second MERS virus case in US

On May 11, 2014, the second US imported case of MERS was confirmed in Florida with a traveler from Saudi Arabia. The first US case was May 2, 2014 in Indiana with another traveler from Saudi Arabia. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a zoonotic viral respiratory disease first reported in 2012, with a likely reservoir in camels. MERS is a coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The mortality rate for MERS is >30% and the virus is known to be spread through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. There is currently no evidence of community spreading. 

University of Akron researchers trace bat killer’s path

Bats provide critical ecological services to humans. They are critical in food plant pollinators and in controlling bugs that threaten agriculture and forestry. A single bat can eat thousands of insects in a single night. Their pest-control value to the US economy is estimated in the billions of dollars. Unfortunately, they are dying in massive numbers. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) has killed about 7 million North American bats with no end in site. This trend will probably worsen, since the recent UA discovery indicates that the deadly WNS fungus can survive in caves with or without the presence of bats. The regional extinction of North American bats is possible. 

Engineers design ‘living materials’

MIT researchers design hybrid materials by combining living bacterial cells with nonliving elements such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These “living materials” could potentially combine the advantages of living cells (responses to the environment and production of complex biological molecules) with the benefits of nonliving materials, such as conducting electricity or emitting light. The new materials could be used to design more complex devices such as solar cells, self-healing materials, or diagnostic sensors.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nanomotors are controlled, for the first time, inside living cells

For the first time, chemists and engineers at Penn State University have placed synthetic nanomotors inside live human cells and using those motors to steer as they moved by acoustic vibrations.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ancient European Hunter-Gatherer was a Blue-Eyed Boy

Analysis of the entire genome of a 7,000 year old hunter-gatherer has revealed interesting facts about the evolution of human genes. DNA extracted from the teeth of remains found in a cave in Spain were completely sequenced. This marks the first pre-agricultural genome to be sequenced and analyzed. While previous sequence data have shown changes in genes associated with early agriculture, such as adaptations to lactose, grain, livestock diseases, the new data raises interesting questions about when some of these genes evolved.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rare New Microbe Found in Two Distant Clean Rooms

Scientists have discovered a new genus and species of bacteria, Tersicoccus phoenicis. It survives on very low nutrients and has been isolated in only 2 places on Earth: spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America. Tersi is Latin for clean, like the room. Coccus is Greek for berry, describing the bacterium's shape. Phoenicis is for NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, the spacecraft being prepared for launch when the species was first collected. Other species of bacteria have been discovered in spacecraft clean rooms, but none have been found in 2 different clean rooms and nowhere else on Earth.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What makes a data visualization memorable?

Bad data visualization, one packed with too much text, excessive ornamentation, gaudy colors, and clip art, are redundant at best and useless at their worst. Sometimes called “chart junk,” there is debate among visualization experts if these extra elements serve a purpose.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

UCLA engineers develop new metabolic pathway to more efficiently convert sugars into biofuels

Scientists at UCLA have created a new synthetic metabolic pathway for hydrolyzing glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels! Nearly all organisms use glycolysis to convert 4 of the 6 carbon atoms in glucose into 2-carbon molecules of acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is used to make biofuels (ethanol & butanol), fatty acids, amino acids, and pharmaceutical products. The problem is that the 2 remaining carbon atoms in glucose are lost as carbon dioxide gas and this is seen as a major inefficiency in the biorefining process.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cold, Salty and Promiscuous - Gene-shuffling Microbes Dominate Antarctica’s Deep Lake

Antarctica’s Deep Lake has been isolated from the ocean for 3,500 years. This unique saltwater ecosystem remains liquid in extreme cold and provides researchers a unique niche for studying the evolution of extremophiles. Deep Lake is dominated by haloarchaea, microbes that require high salt concentrations to grow and are naturally adapted to -20°C. In a detailed analysis published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers have, for the first time, been able to present Deep Lake’s microbial community ecology.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nanoparticle vaccine offers better protection

Many viruses and bacteria infect humans through mucosal surfaces, such as those in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and reproductive tracts. To help fight these pathogens, scientists are working on vaccines that can establish a front line of defense at mucosal surfaces. Only a few mucosal vaccines are in use and development of new mucosal vaccines could help protect against influenza, other respiratory viruses, HIV, herpes simplex virus, human papilloma virus, and possibly even cancer vaccines.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

K-State Microbiology Club on Twitter

Are you interested in microbiology? Are you a pre-health or pre-vet major? If so, the KSU Microbiology Club is for you! It doesn't if you're a K-State Wildcat or not, this Twitter feed should be followed! 

Meet like-minded majors and begin to build your professional network of contacts.

Visit KSU Microbiology Club on Twitter HERE.
Visit the KSU Microbiology Club website HERE.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Scientists uncover how superbug fights off antibiotic

Investigators working to stem the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have taken a major step in their efforts to develop new treatments. Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have identified a novel mechanism that the hard-to-treat superbug called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) uses to fend off the key front-line antibiotic daptomycin. VRE often affects critically ill patients.

Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers

We are facing a global health crisis caused by an obesity epidemic. Scientists report the human gut microbial composition in a population sample of non-obese and obese individuals. The 2 groups differ in the number of gut microbial genes and thus gut bacterial richness. They contain known and previously unknown bacterial species at different proportions; individuals with a low bacterial richness (23% of the population) are characterized by more adiposity, insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia, and a more pronounced inflammatory phenotype when compared with high bacterial richness individuals. The obese individuals among the lower bacterial richness group also gain more weight over time. Only a few bacterial species are sufficient to distinguish between individuals with high and low bacterial richness, and even between lean and obese participants. Classifications based on variation in the gut microbiome identify subsets of individuals in the general population who may be at increased risk of progressing to adiposity-associated health problems.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Next Big Microscopic Thing - Nanobugs, Inc.

Here a nice website with very basic info about microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites). The mission of Nanobugs, Inc. is to both entertain and educate people of all ages about practical microbiology for the purpose of infection prevention and health promotion. Their entertaining formats communicate knowledge that is both memorable and usable.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How will crops fare under climate change? Depends on how you ask.

The damage scientists expect climate change to do to crop yields can differ greatly depending on which model was used to make projections. While the most dire scenarios always loom large in the minds of the public and policymakers, most are usually not aware of how the modeling influences the outcome.

The report in the journal Global Change Biology is one of the first to compare agricultural projections generated by empirical models to those by mechanistic models. Building on similar studies from ecology, the researchers found yet more evidence that empirical models may show greater losses as a result of climate change, while mechanistic models may be overly optimistic.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learn Medical Microbiology

Check it out microbiology folks, a new flash card app for pathogenic microbes. SPOILER ALERT! They are not free. :-(

The Microbe Cards from Eye Cue Cards are designed to look like classic trading cards, with full color images, diagrams, and text for medically important microbes. The set has 103 cards organized into bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

The Horrifying Story of the Last Death by Smallpox

So, the last unfortunate victim of smallpox in 1978 was infected by an unsafe research lab at the University of Birmingham in the UK. She had the misfortune of an office 1 floor above a smallpox lab that was not properly fitted with biosafety equipment.

Friday, July 26, 2013

NRS News: Forest Service Scientists Identify Key Fungal Species that Help Explain Mysteries of White Nose Syndrome

US Forest Service researchers have identified what may be a key to unraveling some of the mysteries of White Nose Syndrome. Studying the closest non-disease causing relatives of the WNS fungus have allowed scientists to move forward with genetic work to examining the molecular mechanisms this fungus uses to kill bats. These fungi, many of them still without formal Latin names, live in bat hibernation sites and even directly on bats, but they do not cause the devastating disease that kills millions of bats in the eastern US. Researchers hope to use these fungi to understand why one fungus can be deadly to bats while its close relatives are benign.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Microbial Home by Philips Design » Yanko Design

This amazing house design uses bacteria to treat, filter, process, and reuse household wastes like sewage, effluent, garbage, wastewater. The central hub in the Microbial Home consists of a methane digester, which converts bathroom waste solids and vegetable trimmings into methane gas that is used to power a series of functions in the home. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

DNA found outside genes plays largely unknown, potentially vital roles: Thousands of previously unknown RNA molecules identified

A new study highlights the potential importance of the vast majority of human DNA that lies outside of genes within the cell. The researchers found that 85% of these stretches of DNA make lincRNAs (large intergenic non-coding RNAs), molecules that increasingly is being found to play important roles within cells. They also determined that lincRNA is more likely than other non-gene DNA regions to be associated with inherited disease risks.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Purpose Games

Here a really cool online educational gaming website that has some nice biology games to help study biology.You can play other people's games or create your own custom games. Challenge someone play or set up group tournament play to add some spice to your study group. They host >70,000 public games created by >150,000 members.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Novel approach to find RNAs involved in long-term memory storage

Scientists have developed a novel strategy for isolating and characterizing a substantial number of RNAs transported from the cell-body of neuron (nerve cell) to the synapse, the small gap separating neurons that enables cell to cell communication. Relatively little is known about the identity of these RNA molecules transported as part of the molecular process underpinning learning and memory. Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Columbia University, and the University of Florida have developed a novel strategy for isolating and characterizing a substantial number of these RNAs.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Scitable | Learn Science at Nature

Scitable is a free science library and online learning tool from Nature Publishing Group, the world's leading publisher of science.

Scitable currently focuses on genetics and cell biology (evolution, gene expression, and cellular processes). Scitable also offers advice about effective science communication and career paths.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Biology | Khan Academy

I've posted previously links to individual Khan Academy's YouTube videos before, but now Khan Academy has a slick new website with all of their educational videos with online discussion threads for each video. You can view videos and ask questions or view common questions and answers already asked.


Biology | OpenStax College

So, you want to learn biology online, but still like the old paper-in-hand copy to read? No problem! Open Stax College has a collection of college science textbooks you can view online for free or download for a small donation that you decide on. These are peer-reviewed texts written by professional content developers. Open Stax College was created by Rice University and has several open source textbooks with more on the way.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Brain size didn't drive primate evolution, research suggests

When great apes diverged from old-world monkeys about 20 million years ago, there was a rise in white matter in the prefrontal cortex, which contributes to social cognition, moral judgments, introspection, and goal-directed planning. Regions tied to motor planning also increased and could have helped them orchestrate the complex movements needed to manipulate tools.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

25 Places to Find Free Computer Science Classes Online

If you would like to learn some computer science check out Online colleges. They have a nice list of places to find free online classes.

Learn Biology on YouTube

Mary Poffenroth has a cool biology website with a full YouTube series to complement Khan Academy's lectures in biology.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Drug-resistant MRSA bacteria: Here to stay in both hospital and community

The drug-resistant bac­te­ria known as MRSA, once con­fined to hos­pi­tals but now wide­spread in com­mu­ni­ties, will likely con­tinue to exist in both set­tings as sep­a­rate strains, accord­ing to a new study.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Paralyzing algae is killing manatees at record pace in Florida

Florida wildlife officials report that 149 of the gentle giants have been killed by red tide this year in just two and a half months, making it almost certain that the state will pass the record of 151, set in 1996.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Check out every single kind of microbe in your body online — all 5 million of them

Check out every single kind of microbe in your body online — all 5 million of them
The initial phase of the Human Microbiome Project has come to an end — and with it, the mapping of the full community of microbes that inhabit all the various nooks and crannies of the healthy human body. The results of the exhaustive study will be published as a collection in PLoS, making their findings available to everyone.

Baby Genomes!!

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have for the first time sequenced the genome of an unborn baby using only a blood sample from the mother.

Reports of rare superbug jump in US, CDC says

A sharp jump in the number of rare but potentially deadly types of a superbug resistant to nearly all last-resort antibiotics has prompted government health officials to renew warnings for U.S. hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings.

The move comes just as researchers are reporting that people who carry dangerous CRE -- Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae -- can take more than a year before they test negative for the bacteria, making it more difficult to control and raising the risk of wider spread.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Khan Academy: Chromosomes, Chromatids, Chromatin, etc.

What is it with words beginning with "C" in genetics? Check out this cool video to better understand replication and the various C vocabulary.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Newly discovered molecule could deliver drugs to treat diseases

Kansas State University researchers have designed molecules that may be capable of delivering drugs inside the body. For the first time, researchers have created membrane-bound vesicles formed entirely of polypeptides. The vesicles could serve as a new drug delivery system to safely treat cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Bone grown from human embryonic stem cells

Researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory have grown bone grafts from human embryonic stem cells for use in research and potential therapeutic application. This is the first example of deriving bone cell progenitors from human embryonic stem cells in large quantities for repair of centimeter-sized defects.

First gene therapy successful against aging-associated decline: Mouse lifespan extended up to 24% with a single treatment

Inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which extends the telomeres (ends of linear chromosomes) also extends the lifespan of mice. This study shows that life extension is actually a doable thing and could improve the health span of us!

Many studies have shown that you can increase lifespan of many species, including mammals, by acting on specific genes, but that usually involves altering genes in embryos. Not something to be done with humans.

The genes behind human intelligence also made us vulnerable to autism

The genes behind human intelligence also made us vulnerable to autism
While the genetic cause(s) of autism are still mostly unknown, the most common single-gene cause is Fragile X Syndrome. Fragile X Syndrome accounts for 5% of autism cases and involves errors on the X chromosome that disrupt normal brain development.

Fragile X Syndrome prevents the production of FMRP, an important brain protein needed to activate the NOS1 gene. The NOS1 gene product is found throughout the developing human brain, especially in guiding the maturation of the speech, language, and decision-making centers.