Humble red berry could be the answer to deadly superbugs

From The Telegraph: Humble red berry could be the answer to deadly superbugs.

The rise of deadly superbugs which are resistant to antibiotics could be thwarted by a humble and widely available red berry, scientists have said.

Researchers seeking to understand why traditional healers in the Amazon rainforest use Brazilian peppertree berries to treat skin complaints found the plant had the power to fight off potentially lethal infections such as MRSA.

Traditional classes of antibiotics, which seek to attack and kill harmful bacteria, are becoming increasingly ineffective as the pathogens learn how to survive the onslaught.

Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia found the peppertree compounds worked in a more intelligent way than existing antibiotics, by “disarming, not destroying” the bugs.

Rather than physically attacking the harmful bacteria, the refined flavone compounds within the berry repressed the gene that allows the dangerous cells to communicate with each other, thereby stopping the infection in its tracks. [continue]

I wonder if anything that grows in my neck of the woods has similar properties.

Germ handprint

From Colossal: The Microbes on the Handprint of an 8-Year-Old After Playing Outside.

We all know our bodies are home to countless millions of bacteria and microorganisms, but without seeing them with our bare eyes it’s almost impossible to comprehend. This petri dish handprint created by Tasha Sturm of Cabrillo College, vividly illustrates the variety of bacteria found on her 8-year-old son’s hand after playing outdoors. The print itself represents several days of growth as different yeasts, fungi, and bacteria are allowed to incubate. [blockquote]

This is about eleventy million times cooler than plaster-casting a kids’ handprint. So interesting! The photos of the bacteria make me want to drop everything and become a bacteriologist.

A self-healing building?

From Grist: Ever heard of a self-healing building? Just wait.

Some potentially good news for green architecture: Dutch scientists have designed a new type of concrete — and it sounds like something straight outta science fiction.

Henk Jonkers, a researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, helped formulate a bio-concrete, a building material that seals architectural cracks with limestone-producing bacteria. [continue]

Bacteria-run computer solves math puzzle

From Bacteria-Run Computer Solves Math Puzzle.

A new living computer, bred from E. coli bacteria instead of stamped from silica, has for the first time successfully solved a classic mathematical puzzle known as the Burnt Pancake Problem.

While this bacteria-based computer is more proof of concept than practical, a living computer might one day solve complex mathematical problems faster than silicon supercomputers.

"The computing potential of DNA far exceeds that of any other material," said Karmella Haynes, a researcher at Davidson University and lead study author. "If we figure out how to increase that capacity in a practical manner we will have much more computing power." [continue]

Researchers tinker with bacteria to store data

From Researchers tinker with bacteria to store data.

These days, data get stored on disks, computer chips, hard drives and good old-fashioned paper. Scientists in Japan see something far smaller but more durable — bacteria.

The four characters — T, C, A and G — that represent the genetic coding in DNA work much like digital data.

Character combinations can stand for specific letters and symbols — so codes in genomes can be translated, or read, to produce music, text, video and other content.

While ink may fade and computers may crash, bacterial information lasts as long as a species stays alive — possibly a mind-boggling million years – according to Professor Masaru Tomita, who heads the team of researchers at Keio University. [continue]