Bacteria swap genetic information as readily as people can share digital data — there are no cultural, political or systemic boundaries, according to a new study. Researchers say they have identified a massive gene network that facilitates the transfer of 10,000 unique genes among 2,235 bacterial genomes, across international borders and across species.
A German nonprofit, called MyMicrobes, is hoping you'll want to get your gut bacteria's genomes sequenced. It's expensive, but you'll get access to one of the most exclusive social networks around, where people worldwide can, um, talk about their gastrointestinal difficulties with like-minded people. Two grand seems cheap when we put it like that!
Anyone who has ever had a stomach bug knows it can really subdue your spirits as well as your appetite. But other parts of the gut microbiome can have the opposite effect, and make you feel great. Irish researchers have found a type of gut bacteria that seems to have directly interacted with the brains of mice, reducing stress and depression.
Call it a twist on the study of gut bacteria. Scientists sampling DNA strains from the navels of volunteer donors have found 662 microbes that are apparently new to science, showing that the human navel is apparently a ripe environment for bacteria.
A potential new cancer treatment could be as simple as taking a swig of some genetically modified salmonella. The bug, famous for forcing food recalls and making people sick, could be weaponized to fight tumor cells.
Human trials are already under way at the University of Minnesota, where researchers have successfully tested salmonella-led tumor control in mice.
It's not that they can't. They just don't need to, says Mike Murray, a veterinarian at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Birds have the anatomical and physical ability to pass gas, he explains, "but if I saw gas in a bird's gastrointestinal tract on an x-ray, I'd suspect that something abnormal was going on in there."
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.