Bacteria that eats metal accidentally discovered by scientists

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Manganese oxide nodules generated by the bacteria discovered by the Caltech team.

(CNN)Scientists have discovered a type of bacteria that eats and gets its calories from metal, after suspecting they exist for more than a hundred years but never proving it.

Now microbiologists from the California Institute of Technology (or Caltech) accidentally discovered the bacteria after performing unrelated experiments using a chalk-like type of manganese, a commonly found chemical element.

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South Korean tech breakthrough could change biofuels forever

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Researchers in South Korea have made a major breakthrough in using bacteria to sustainably and efficiently produce biofuels. The team of scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) report that they have developed a new kind of engineered microorganisms that are capable of producing greater volumes of the fatty acids that make up biodiesel than ever before.

A team of researchers from KAIST released a study detailing their discovery last month in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology. The paper, titled “Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels” details the development of these record-breaking microorganisms which could prove to be a key breakthrough in the effort to develop sustainable, bio-based energy sources to replace dirtier, finite fossil fuels.

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Pharma company hacks tequila bacteria to produce THC

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Farmako, a pharmaceutical cannabis company based in Frankfurt, Germany recently registered a patent for a gene-editing process that turns tequila bacteria into cannabinoids, Futurism reports.

The genetically modified bacterium is called Zymomonas cannabinoidis, a gene-edited version of Zymomonas mobilis, which is used to produce tequila. By feeding on sugar, the bacterium produces biosynthetic cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and “more than 180 known cannabinoids,” according to a press release. The process could make producing cannabinoids “a thousand times cheaper,” Futurism reports.

As VinePair reported in February, several organizations are working to engineer more cost-effective ways to produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. For example, scientists revealed a process in which turning a sugar found in brewers yeast can be converted into cannabinoid compounds.

Via Vinepair.com

 

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Lasers cure nearly 50% of patients with prostate cancer in new study

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Experts have honed a cutting-edge method to kill off tumors with less damage to healthy cells.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and STEBA Biotech have announced the success of the unique method they developed to fight prostate cancer. This treatment, which the group of expects called “transformative,” has shown promising results.

Under development since 2011, vascular targeted photodynamic therapy (VPT), as the procedure is called, is carried out in a two-step process. Patients are first introduced to WST11 — a compound extracted from some benthic bacteria, or bacteria that dwell at the bottom of the sea. These bacteria are particularly special, though, as they are highly light-sensitive.

Optical fibers are then inserted through an area called the perineum, found between the the testes and the anus, and directly into the prostate gland. Afterwards, the scientists turn on a red laser that is induced through the optical fibers. This process utilizes the photosensitivity of the WST11 drug and activates it. Upon activation, free radicals are released within the area, attacking and destroying the tumors. Unlike conventional treatments which might affect a general area of body cells, this treatment is localized. The nearby cells are left more or less unharmed.

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Genetically engineered bacteria paint microscopic masterpieces

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Scientists have used genetically engineered bacteria to recreate a masterpiece at a microscopic scale. By engineering E. coli bacteria to respond to light, they’ve guided the bacteria like tiny drones toward patterns that depict Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It’s not artistic recognition they’re after. Rather, the researchers want to show that these engineered organisms may someday be used as “microbricks” and living propellors.

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Creating a bacterial kill switch using genome engineering

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Researchers announced in 2011 that they had reprogrammed the genome of the bacteria E. coli so that one of DNA’s methods of encoding information went unused.  While a technological breakthrough, the scientists didn’t do anything with the new bit of genetic code.  Now only a few years later, two different groups have taken this technological tour-de-force, and are using it in the same way:  creating genetically modified organisms that may never be able to escape into the wild.

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NASA to create bioengineered drones made of mushrooms and bacteria

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Prototype of the bioengineered drone.

Autonomous drones can seem like they have minds of their own and that creeps out some people.  But a new, NASA-backed research project seeks to create something quite different: A living, breathing, biodegradable drone made out of bacteria and fungi.

 

 

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We harvest the blood of half a million horseshoe crabs a year for medical science

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Harvesting the blood of horseshoe crabs.

The marvelous thing about horseshoe crab blood besides the baby blue color, is a chemical found only in the amoebocytes of its blood cells that can detect mere traces of bacterial presence and trap them in inescapable clots.

 

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Scientists reinventing photosynthesis to feed the world

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If we could make the process more efficient, scientists estimate we could increase yields by 36 to 60 percent.

What if we ended up with 50% more rice and wheat by using the same amount of water and fertilizer? Sound impossible? No, just some chemistry and genetic engineering. Scientists have recently figured out the second of three steps to make photosynthesis a whole lot more efficient in plants.

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