Biology and Biotech

When an artery feeding the heart (coronary artery) becomes blocked by plaque or a blood clot, the heart muscle fed by that artery suffers from lack of oxygen and nutrients. If the block goes on long enough, that area of muscle dies — and that’s what we call a heart attack or myocardial infarction. If the area is large enough, the person dies too, unless something is done to quickly restore blood flow.

Of course, lowering cholesterol with drugs and decreasing incipient blockages by angioplasty are two effective ways to prevent such events.  A new study suggests that a particular type of bacterium — Synechococcus elongates (SE) — just might be the key to preventing damage when a blockage does...

The history of the field of microbiology may not be as long as other scientific areas, but it is as rich. 

Let's face it - it was only about 300 years ago, when Antonie van Leewenhoek first saw the 'wee animalcules" which we now know were bacteria.   

The editors of the Journal of Bacteriology, a journal in the field of microbiology that publishes solid (although not always the sexiest) research, took a walk down memory lane during the year 2016 and highlighted the top 100 historical papers from the century in their "Classic Spotlight" series. 

The series selected about 120 landmark papers and published summaries in almost every issue of the journal throughout 2016. All of the summaries are free and available online. 

The editors (all well-known...

It's kind of ironic that tans used to be associated with being poor — with having to work outdoors. But more recently, tans are associated more with having the leisure to loll around the pool or beach and acquire that golden girl (or boy) patina.

It's long been understood that people with light skin who don't tan easily are at greater risk of developing UV-induced skin cancer. This is true whether the UV radiation comes from the sun or UV lamps such as those in tanning beds. Such tanning, while it may look healthy, basically means that exposure to UV light has occurred. Some folks have tried to acquire the healthful glow of a tan by the use of various sprays that provide color, but not the protection that melanin can offer.

Forget the spray tans and tanning beds....

The sequence of an organism's genome, a staple in today's world of scientific experimentation, is as essential to scientific research as beakers. So, publishing over one thousand new bacterial genomes is like 'making it rain' to the microbiology research community. 

An article entitled "1,003 reference genomes of bacterial and archaeal isolates expand coverage of the tree of life" was published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology by an international research team led by the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute. This release effectively doubles the number of currently available bacterial and archaeal genomes available to researchers currently. 

This work...

When people start to use a newly developed scientific technique it is put through the ringer. That is the nature of science. So, it was not unexpected when a paper was published recently regarding the hitherto seemingly infallible CRISPR-Cas9 technique.  

The recent publication in Nature Methods entitled "Unexpected mutation after CRISPR-Cas9 editing in vivo" claimed that using the CRISPR-Cas9 technique may cause unexpected mutations to occur, resulting in a collective 'gasp' from the scientific community.

But the discovers of CRISPR-Cas9 did not come to play, especially not when the stock value of their companies dipped significantly due to the publication. They are not taking criticism of their technique lightly, and both companies that are based on the...

Whenever something appalling is said or done by Andrew Wakefield and his supporters, which is all too frequently, I am compelled to point out that 1) there is no scientific evidence supporting their far-fetched idea that vaccines cause autism and 2) their support of the anti-vaxx movement is hurting and even killing children.

Indeed, just last week I wrote about my revulsion over the fact that the movie 'VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe' was being shown at the Cannes Film Festival. 

But, this week is different. This week - I get a break. I get the chance to write about Dr. Lance O'Sullivan - a physician who not only finds the anti-...

If you're a fan of your new, wearable fitness tracker, it must be reassuring to glance down at your wrist and see your heart rate measurement as you start your run. And as the numbers climb, there's gratification knowing that your heart is pumping – and your calorie burn is underway.

For purchasers of these cutting-edge products, real-time feedback on personal, physiological changes in your own body is thrilling to witness. That's a big reason why fitness trackers comprise a hot and growing market, with worldwide expected sales this year to reach 44.1 million units.  

OK now, while having this newfound access to your personal health data is exciting and empowering, there's just...

Vitamin-A deficiency around the world leads to between 250,000 and 500,000 children going blind – every single year. Half of them die within a year of losing their sight. And several other health problems stem from this urgent issue.

Yet, a solution to this global health threat is available today, and it could quickly help 250 million preschool children around the world who are vitamin-A deficient, as estimated by the World Health Organization

That said, exactly how many countries today are growing "Golden Rice" – a genetically-modified seed with three genes that produce beta-carotene, a vitamin-A precursor – to assist their underfed and vulnerable populations?


Yes, it's difficult to fathom,...

When we order food at a restaurant or buy it from a grocery store, we expect that we are getting what is listed on the menu or label. But a growing body of evidence suggests that simply isn't the case.

A scandal in the UK broke out when it was discovered that some beef had been replaced by horse meat. Hot dogs in Malaysia may contain unexpected things, like buffalo meat. Cheese classified as Parmigiano-Reggiano is possibly fraudulent. In fact, food fraud appears to be a particular problem in the seafood industry, where cheap fish is regularly substituted for...

One final observation on our great post-war successes in controlling malaria by targeting its vector, the Anopheles mosquito. By using that most marvelous insecticide DDT, we were beginning to gain the upper hand in our conquest of malaria as clearly demonstrated in the table below.



Malaria occurrence per annum prior to introduction of DDT

Malaria occurrence per annum after the introduction of DDT