34,000 Year-Old Bacteria Discovered Alive

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

Scientists have found prokaryotes believed to have been alive when trapped in salt crystals 34,000 years ago, according to a study published this month in The Geological Society of America’s open-access journal GSA Today.

“Microbes are known to exist in subsurface habitats, such as sub-seafloor sediments and continental and oceanic crust, to depths of up to 3 km,” the paper reads.

“Prokaryotes (single-celled organisms lacking a nucleus and other membrane-bound specialized structures) in these subsurface environments live in water within sediment pores and rock fractures.”

From disinfo.com.

Bioencryption can store almost a million gigabytes of data inside bacteria

Posted by on November 26th, 2010

Antibiotics aren’t the only way we are going to make bacteria work:

A new method of data storage that converts information into DNA sequences allows you to store the contents of an entire computer hard-drive on a gram’s worth of E. coli bacteria…and perhaps considerably more than that.


A single gram of E. coli cells could hold up to 900,000 gigabytes (or 900 terabytes) of data, meaning these bacteria have almost 500 times the storage capacity of a top of the line commercial hard drive.

Full story at io9.com.

DNA Fingerprinting Traces Global Path of Plague

Posted by on November 5th, 2010

Keim, director of NAU’s Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics and division director of Translational Genomics Research Institute, said that while the plague is less of a threat to humans than at other periods in history, such as the Middle Ages, the current plague research can be applied to ongoing health threats around the world.

This type of DNA fingerprinting can be used to characterize both natural and nefarious plague outbreaks — which is crucial when a bacterium is used as a biological weapon.

“This work is more of a model for our control of epidemic diseases such as Salmonella, E. coli and influenza,” Keim said. “Plague took advantage of human commercial traffic on a global scale, just as the flu and food-borne diseases do today. Future epidemiologists can learn from this millennium-scale reconstruction of a devastating disease to prevent or control future infectious disease outbreaks.”

Via ScienceDaily.

Glass Virus Sculptures

Posted by on September 10th, 2009

After five years of correspondence with glassblowers and virologists, artist Luke Jerram has created unique glass sculptures of viruses and bacteria, presented in a visually dramatic way:

    Smallpox Virus:

    SARS coronavirus:

    Escherichia coli bacterium:

The work is on display at the Smithfield gallery in London, from September 22 through October 3rd.

Link and photos via from guardian.co.uk.

September programme of the VivoArts School for Transgenic Aesthetics

Posted by on September 2nd, 2009

We touched on the same program in March of 2008, and now they are back with a new one this month, via we-make-money-not-art.com:

You might remember that back in May i was throwing seedballs all over Amsterdam along with Adam Zaretsky, the Waag society and other eco-enthusiast.

The VivoArts School for Transgenic Aesthetics Ltd. comes back to town in September and this time the focus will be biology and bacterial transformation. VASTAL is a temporary research and education institute that Zaretsky has created in Amsterdam following an invitation by the Waag Society. The lectures and workshops aim to show the public what it means to work both artistically and scientifically with living organisms and materials. VASTAL also aims to make this form of art-science accessible for a broader audience and invite them to discuss the ethical and aesthetic issues at stake.

Topics include:

    • Alt-Biology: Solar Transgenics, Synthetic Biology, Nanotech Biomimicry, Post-Natural History and Green Biofuel

    • Tissue Culture Lab

    • Growing Politics: Tissue Culture and Art meets Urbanibalism

    • (De)Mystified DNA: Sequencing Lab

Ribbon Stairs

Posted by on August 5th, 2009

For those sure-footed few:

Via inventorspot.com

Man and Nature Combine to Make Exquisite Art

Posted by on July 3rd, 2009

Petri dishes show a riot of color and luminescence. The artist, physics professor Eshel Ben Jacob from Tel Aviv University says:

They illustrate the coping strategies that bacteria have learned to employ, strategies that involve cooperation through communication. These selfsame strategies are used by the bacteria in their struggle to defeat our best antibiotics. Thus, if we understand the mechanisms behind the patterns, we can learn how to outsmart the bacteria – for example, by tampering with their communication – in our ongoing battle for our health.

In a sense, the strikingly beautiful organization of the pattern reflects the underlying social intelligence of the bacteria. The once controversial idea that bacteria cooperate to solve challenges has become commonplace, with the discovery of specific channels of communication between the cells and specific mechanisms facilitating the exchange of genetic information. Retrospectively, these capabilities should not have been seen as so surprising, as bacteria set the stage for all life on Earth and indeed invented most of the processes of biology. As we try to stay ahead of the disease-causing varieties of these versatile creatures, we must use our own intelligence to understand them. These images remind us never to underestimate our opponent.

Link via medgadget.com.

China offers mobile phone credit in the battle to fight TB

Posted by on April 2nd, 2009

TB, or tuberculosis, requires a lengthy multi-drug treatment regimen which people might not finish. China has adpoted a scheme originally develeopled at MIT to combat this problem:

The scheme, originally developed by students at MIT, offers free top-ups to sufferers who send text messages to health care centres with a unique code proving they have taken their drugs.

TB sufferers are often prescribed a cocktail of 15-20 pills, which they must take every day for six months to overcome tuberculosis, but many fail to complete the course, allowing the disease to build resistance to conventional drugs.

The mobile phone incentive scheme works by patients conducting their own urine tests using test-strips which, if they have taken their medicine properly, reveal a unique code which they SMS to a healthcare centre.

Take your pills on time, get mobile phone credits. Simple. Easy.

Link via textually.org.

DIY Biohacking Lives

Posted by on December 25th, 2008

I just got sent this in an IM message and have not been able to stop saying “Holy Shit” ever since:

Amateurs are Trying Genetic Engeneering at Home.

Many of these amateurs may have studied biology in college but have no advanced degrees and are not earning a living in the biotechnology field. Some proudly call themselves “biohackers” — innovators who push technological boundaries and put the spread of knowledge before profits.

In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.

Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.

    A quick trip over to DIYbio’s site will reveal a group of people with a wide range of interests from self-mods to biomapping to creating labratory tools for “citizen scientists” – but all seemingly with sights set on the democratization of biotechnology.  They already have a wide array of tools available, it seems and are looking for more participents and volunteers.  

(Thanks, Matt.) 


Slave Bacteria

Posted by on November 24th, 2008

Spotted on newscientist.com, a new patent has been applied for biobots. They are genetically engineer microbe slaves designed to carry out tasks, compete in war games and gladiatorial combat.

Jan Liphardt, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, say it may be possible to create new species of slave bacteria to do the job instead.

The idea is to create stripped-down versions of bacteria, with only enough of a genome to perform certain tasks – for example, swimming along a chemical trail using their flagella, secreting another chemical as they go.

Article adds a so-called lighter note to it:

They would be controlled using light of a specific frequency. Varying the amount of light would switch the biobots on or off by activating pigments carried by the mini workers.

But like more normal-sized robots, biobots could be entertaining too, the patent says. People could race them around tracks, mazes, or obstacles. They might even compete in biobot war games, trying to track each other down and making a kill by secreting antibiotics.

Such contests would depend on finding an easy way to make the tiny gladiators easier to see, perhaps by making them luminous, the patent notes.

Biobot gladiators. What happens when they revolt?

“Infective Art”

Posted by on November 16th, 2008

Portraits taken by using the blue-green light produced by bioluminescent bacteria. The exhibit is part of the “Infective Art” exhibit at the Dana Centre.

From collaborator Simon Park:

I have collaboration with an artist called Anne Brodie in which we have developed the world’s most unusual photobooth. Using the booth we take portraits of people using only the ephemeral blue-green light produced by bioluminescent bacteria (100s of agar plates and 10 litres of culture). We will be using the photobooth at the “Infective Art” evening at the DANA centre of the Science Museum on 26th November.

Unlike sunlight or artificial light, bacterial bioluminescence is of a pure and refined quality (a single wavelength of ~475 nm), a property that endows it with unique revelatory properties. When a human body is imaged with bacterial light, it does more than illuminate; the light is of a type that penetrates adornments, glamour, and the inconsequential surface features of the face revealing far more about the individual behind it than does the unrefined cocktail of light wavelengths that is sunlight. An example of its properties can be seen in these portraits of my children.

Link via we-make-money-not-art.com.