Light and nanotechnology combined to prevent b…

Light and nanotechnology combined to prevent biofilms on medical implants

Invented approximately 50 years ago, surgical medical meshes have become key elements in the recovery procedures of damaged-tissue surgeries, the most frequent being hernia repair. When implanted within the tissue of the patient, the flexible and conformable design of these meshes helps hold muscles tight and allows patients to recover much faster than through the conventional sowing and stitching surgery.

[…]

However, the insertion of a medical implant in a patient’s body carries alongside the risk of bacterial contamination during surgery and subsequent formation of an infectious biofilm over the surface of the surgical mesh. Such biofilms tend to act like an impermeable coating, impeding any sort of antibiotic agent to reach and attack the bacteria formed on the film in order to stop the infection. Thus, antibiotic therapies, which are time-limited, could fail against these super resistant bacteria and the patient could end up in recurring surgeriesthat could even lead to death. As a matter of fact, according to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net), in 2015 more than 30,000 deaths in Europe were linked to infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Read more.

Via @socialmicrobes: “This microscopic w…

Via @socialmicrobes: “This microscopic water bear appears to be scratching its back, like big bears scratch on trees. What do you think the little tardigrade is actually doing? … It may be temporarily stuck to the bubble because of surface tension. The physics of the microbial world are very different than we experience in everyday life.”

Methane-consuming bacteria could be the futu…

Methane-consuming bacteria could be the future of fuel

Discovery illuminates how bacteria turn methane gas into liquid methanol

Known for their ability to remove methane from the environment and convert it into a usable fuel, methanotrophic bacteria have long fascinated researchers. But how, exactly, these bacteria naturally perform such a complex reaction has been a mystery.

Now an interdisciplinary team at Northwestern University has found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyzes this reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion.

This finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas – to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism.

“The identity and structure of the metal ions responsible for catalysis have remained elusive for decades,” said Northwestern’s Amy C. Rosenzweig, co-senior author of the study. “Our study provides a major leap forward in understanding how bacteria methane-to-methanol conversion.”

Read more.

Artificial mother-of-pearl created using bac…

Artificial mother-of-pearl created using bacteria

The strongest synthetic materials are often those that intentionally mimic nature.

One natural substance scientists have looked to in creating synthetic materials is nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. An exceptionally tough, stiff material produced by some mollusks and serving as their inner shell layer, it also comprises the outer layer of pearls, giving them their lustrous shine.

But while nacre’s unique properties make it an ideal inspiration in the creation of synthetic materials, most methods used to produce artificial nacre are complex and energy intensive.

Now, a biologist at the University of Rochester has invented an inexpensive and environmentally friendly method for making artificial nacre using an innovative component: bacteria. The artificial nacre created by Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology at Rochester, and her colleagues is made of biologically produced materials and has the toughness of natural nacre, while also being stiff and, surprisingly, bendable.

Read more.

‘Molecular scissors’ for plastic…

‘Molecular scissors’ for plastic waste

Enzyme MHETase decoded

Plastics are excellent materials: extremely versatile and almost eternally durable. But this is also exactly the problem, because after only about 100 years of producing plastics, plastic particles are now found everywhere – in groundwater, in the oceans, in the air, and in the food chain. Around 50 million tonnes of the industrially important polymer PET are produced every year. Just a tiny fraction of plastics is currently recycled at all by expensive and energy-consuming processes which yield either downgraded products or depend in turn on adding ‘fresh’ crude oil.

In 2016, a group of Japanese researchers has discovered a bacterium that grows on PET and partially feeds on it. They found out that his bacterium possesses two special enzymes, PETase and MHETase, which are able to digest PET plastic polymers. PETase breaks down the plastic into smaller PET building blocks, primarily MHET, and MHETase splits this into the two basic precursor building blocks of PET, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. Both components are very valuable for synthesising new PET without the addition of crude oil – for a closed sustainable production and recovery cycle.

In April 2018, the structure of PETase was finally solved independently by several research groups, the Diamond Light Source was also involved in the experiments. However, PETase is only part of the solution. It is equally important to characterize the structure of the second enzyme, MHETase.

Read more.

Creating sustainable bioplastics from electr…

Creating sustainable bioplastics from electricity-eating microbes

Electricity harvested from the sun or wind can be used interchangeably with power from coal or petroleum sources. Or sustainably produced electricity can be turned into something physical and useful. Researchers in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis have figured out how to feed electricity to microbes to grow truly green, biodegradable plastic, as reported in the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.

“As our planet grapples with rampant, petroleum-based plastic use and plastic waste, finding sustainable ways to make bioplastics is becoming more and more important. We have to find new solutions,” said Arpita Bose, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences.

Renewable energy currently accounts for about 11% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 17% of electricity generation.

One of the main issues with renewable electricity is energy storage: how to collect power generated during the sunny and windy hours, and hold it for when it is dark and still. Bioplastics are a good use for that “extra” power from intermittent sources, Bose suggests—as an alternative to battery storage, and instead of using that energy to make a different type of fuel.

Read more.

Electricity-conducting bacteria yield secret…

Electricity-conducting bacteria yield secret to tiny batteries, big medical advances

Researchers reveal amazing biological ‘wires’ of a sort never seen before

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about how strange bacteria that live in soil and sediment can conduct electricity. The bacteria do so, the researchers determined, through a seamless biological structure never before seen in nature – a structure scientists can co-opt to miniaturize electronics, create powerful-yet-tiny batteries, build pacemakers without wires and develop a host of other medical advances.

Scientists had believed Geobacter sulfurreducens conducted electricity through common, hair-like appendages called pili. Instead, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and his collaborators have determined that the bacteria transmit electricity through immaculately ordered fibers made of an entirely different protein. These proteins surround a core of metal-containing molecules, much like an electric cord contains metal wires. This “nanowire,” however, is 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

This tiny-but-tidy structure, the researchers believe, could be tremendously useful for everything from harnessing the power of bioenergy to cleaning up pollution to creating biological sensors. It could actually serve as the bridge between electronics and living cells.

Read more.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!