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Complex Insight  - Understanding our world
News and notes on complex systems in life sciences, engineering, education and government
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Mouse Colon Colonized with Human Microbiota

Mouse Colon Colonized with Human Microbiota | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
This 63X photograph shows a mouse colon colonized with human microbiota. It won second place in the 2015 Nikon Small World Photomicrophotography Competition, which recognizes excellence in photography with the optical microscope and was taken using confocal microscopy.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Its a small world - and a stunning photogaph. Examining occurances of microbiota and how they travel between species has a lot of implications for understanding healthcare and disease reservoirs. 

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How CDC Uses Antibiotic Resistance Data - Food Safety News

How CDC Uses Antibiotic Resistance Data - Food Safety News | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Food Safety News How CDC Uses Antibiotic Resistance Data Food Safety News Over the past year, you may have noticed that antimicrobial resistance information has been incorporated in the outbreak reports put out by the Centers for Disease Control...
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CDC are one fo the organisations leading information release on antimicrobial resistance. This article explaines where to find out more info from CDC on this area. Worth reading.

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Cellular traffic control system mapped for the first time

Cellular traffic control system mapped for the first time | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Cells regulate the uptake of nutrients and messenger cargos and their transport within the cell. This process is known as endocytosis and membrane traffic. Different cargos dock onto substrate specific receptors on the cell membrane. Special proteins such as kinases, GTPases and coats, activate specific entry routes and trigger the uptake of the receptors into the cell. For their uptake, the receptors and docked cargos become enclosed by the cell membrane. In the next steps, the membrane invaginates and becomes constricted. The resulting vesicle is guided via several distinct stations, cellular organelles, to its final destination in the cell.

 

For her study, Dr. Prisca Liberali, senior scientist in the team of Professor Lucas Pelkmans, sequentially switched off 1200 human genes. Using automated high-throughput light microscopy and computer vision, she could monitor and compare 13 distinct transport paths involving distinct receptors and cellular organelles. Precise quantifications of thousands of single cells identified the genes required for the different transport routes. Surprisingly, sets of transport routes are co-regulated and coordinated in specific ways by different programs of regulatory control.

 

Subsequently, Dr. Liberali calculated the hierarchical order within the genetic network and thereby identified the regulatory topology of cellular transport. "The transport into the cell and within the cells proceeds analogously to the cargo transport within a city" describes the scientist. "Like in a city, the traffic on the routes within a cell and their intersections is tightly regulated by traffic lights and signs to guide the cargo flow."

 

Thanks to this unique quantitative map, the fine regulatory details of transport paths and processes within a cells could be mapped for the first time. Particularly the genes that encode for these traffic lights and switches are often de-regulated in disease. With this map, it is now possible to predict how this leads to traffic jams in the cells, causing the disease phenotype. Alternatively, since many drugs have been developed to target these traffic lights and switches, the map can be used to come up with possible drug combinations to target unwanted traffic, such as viruses, to the waste disposal system of the cell.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald, burkesquires
ComplexInsight's insight:

Mapping the fine regulatory details of transport paths and processes within cells is key to understanding gene and protein functions, cancer, viral interactions and potential treatments.  Interesting read.

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WHO | WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health

New WHO report provides the most comprehensive picture of antibiotic resistance to date, with data from 114 countries
ComplexInsight's insight:

Resistance to antibiotics poses a "major global threat" to public health, says a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO team analysed data from 114 countries and said resistance was happening now "in every region of the world". The report describes a "post-antibiotic era", where people die from simple infections that have been treatable for decades.

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Multiple sclerosis link to food bug

Multiple sclerosis link to food bug | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

A food poisoning bacterium may be implicated in MS, say US researchers.

ComplexInsight's insight:

Lab tests in mice by the team from Weill Cornell Medical College revealed a toxin made by a rare strain of Clostridium perfringens caused MS-like damage in the brain. And earlier work by the same team, published in PLoS ONE, identified the toxin-producing strain of C. perfringens in a young woman with MS. However experts urge caution, saying more work is needed to explore the link. Click on title or image to go the story.

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Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe - Vol. 19 No. 8 - August 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe - Vol. 19 No. 8 - August 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Globally, antimicrobial drug resistance is rapidly rising, with resultant increased illness and death. In Europe, increasing proportions of bloodstream infections caused by E. coli are resistant to third-generation cephalosporins...

ComplexInsight's insight:

Antibiotic use in agriculture tends to be a tension filled debate.  Farmers  want healthy stock and the use of antibiotics as with people has had a major impact. However use of antiobiotics in farming helps accelerate bacterial evolution and antibiotic resistance. The debate around antibiotic overuse on farms or over perscription in human medicine and the relation to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, how antibiotic resistant strains migrate from farms to elswhere is ongoing. The human and financial impact and cost of antiobiotic overuse  in agriculture has until now been a grey area of discussion.  A multi-national team of researchers recently published their findings to these questions in the open journal Emerging Infectious disease published by CDC. They found  number of avoidable deaths and the costs of health care potentially caused by third-generation cephalosporin use in food animals is a staggering 1,518 deaths and 67,236 days in the hospital, every year, which would not otherwise have occurred. Considering those factors, they recommend the ongoing use of these antimicrobial drugs in mass therapy and prophylaxis should be urgently examined and stopped, particularly in poultry.  The article and technical appendix are worth reading.

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Antibiotic resistance: The last resort

Antibiotic resistance: The last resort | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Health officials are watching in horror as bacteria become resistant to powerful carbapenem antibiotics — one of the last drugs on the shelf.
ComplexInsight's insight:

As antibiotic resistance continues to evolve and spread - it continues to not get the attention and funding it needs. Research work is urgently needed in new treatments but also in how bacteria, evolve, transport and move in and around hospitals, how they communicate, and how to optimize standard infection-control practices.  Good article from Nature. scary reality.

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These Bacteria Are Wired to Hunt Like a Tiny Wolf Pack - Wired Science

These Bacteria Are Wired to Hunt Like a Tiny Wolf Pack - Wired Science | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

You wouldn’t know it, but there is an elaborate stealth communication network in the Earth beneath your feet. This smart web acts like a superorganism, fortifying defensive capabilities and coordinating deadly attacks on unsuspecting targets. But it’s not run by the NSA, the CIA, or the military. This web is made of bacteria

ComplexInsight's insight:

Good artile explainging recent findings in bacterial communication research. Understanding how bacteria communicate and organise will be key to next generation treatments rather than relying only on discovered antibiotics.

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Cicada wings inspire new ideas for antibacterial products

Cicada wings inspire new ideas for antibacterial products | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Here’s another reason to love cicadas: A new study has found that tiny structures on cicada wings can kill bacteria through physical and not chemical means.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
ComplexInsight's insight:

If this pans out - it may indicate new directions in anti-bacterial research.

 

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Greg Wurn's curator insight, March 4, 2014 9:20 PM

Interesting, could lead to some very important discoveries in future

Corie Rosen's curator insight, February 29, 2016 8:58 PM

Antibiotic resistance is nothing new; it is a very real threat in the world today. Bacteria are mutating and resisting our best tools at a rate that modern scientists can't keep up with. They say you learn something new everyday, and this was something I had no idea about until now! I flocked to this article because it is definitely an interesting concept. What is even cooler is the fact that a cicada's wings are able to kill gram-negative bacteria (gram-positive aren't affected), such as E. coli, through physical means and not chemical. This means the bacteria are unlikely to become resistant to the affects! Just imagine the ways scientists can utilize this!

 

This article, while not a scientific report, references the study done by scientists and provides links to it, therefore making the article a reliable source of information.

Janice Edgerly-Rooks's curator insight, September 12, 2016 9:36 PM
One wonders why bacteria would make a difference to a cicada's wings. They live underground as immatures which makes me think that antibacterial properties might derive from that part of their life cycle. But they don't have wings, so this is curious indeed.
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Artificial vanillin receptor modulates transcription - PLOS Synthetic Biology Community

Artificial vanillin receptor modulates transcription - PLOS Synthetic Biology Community | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Bacteria adjust to different environmental conditions mainly by modulating transcription. Internal and external stimuli affect regulatory elements, all of which formulate the complex transcriptional profile of an organism at any given moment. In synthetic biology, the use of synthetic genetic circuits and metabolic pathways, which are often unresponsive to the aforementioned native regulation, is a common procedure. Such behavior can be advantageous, as it allows the organism to remain unaffected by unpredictable perturbations. In many cases, however, the lack of interaction with the internal control leads to undesired effects: metabolic intermediate accumulation, reduced fitness, and decreased product yields. This sets the framework of a recent research paper from the groups of Stephen Mayo and Richard Murray, where they describe a de novo transcription factor that is regulated by vanillin.

Vanillin is a byproduct of lignin degradation and an important substrate for the flavor industry. It is a phenolic compound with cytotoxic effects. In this article, the researchers modified qacR, a tetR-family repressor to bind vanillin, which binds to DNA via a helix-turn-helix domain. In the absence of the effector molecule, qacR physically inhibits RNA polymerase from transcribing the region downstream the binding site (see figure). The inducer causes conformational changes that prevent this binding, thus activating the gene. The procedure for qacR engineering consists of three steps:

(i) computational protein design. The researchers superimposed vanillin with the qacR crystal structure, enabling them to identify the potential binding conformations and the crucial aminoacids. They subsequently came up with a number of protein mutants that could form the correct interactions with vanillin and did not have steric clashes.

(ii) cell-free initial screening. The proteins resulting from the previous step were tested in an in vitro transcription/translation system. This methodology let the authors of the paper validate the repression qacR imposes on a reporter gene (GFP), while screening the functionality of the engineered proteins. Since all of the initial modified proteins failed to be activated by vanillin, the researchers went back to step (i) and designed more modifications. This time, two mutants showed the desired phenotype.

(iii) in vivo validation. As a last step, the two proteins from step (ii) were tested in E.coli. Both were able to suppress GFP expression in the lack of activator. One of them responded positively to increasing concentrations of vanillin, resulting in increased fluorescence.

Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
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First ever biological amplifier created by Imperial scientists

First ever biological amplifier created by Imperial scientists | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

cientists have made an amplifier to boost biological signals, using DNA and harmless E. coli bacteria.

 Conventional amplifiers, such as those that are combined with loudspeakers to boost the volume of electric guitars and other instruments, are used to increase the amplitude of electrical signals. Now scientists from Imperial College London have used the same engineering principles to create a biological amplifier, by re-coding the DNA in the harmless gut bacteria Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli). 
Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
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Gerd Moe-Behrens's curator insight, August 14, 2014 6:08 PM

by Gail Wilson

"Scientists have made an amplifier to boost biological signals, using DNA and harmless E. coli bacteria.

Conventional amplifiers, such as those that are combined with loudspeakers to boost the volume of electric guitars and other instruments, are used to increase the amplitude of electrical signals.
Now scientists from Imperial College London have used the same engineering principles to create a biological amplifier, by re-coding the DNA in the harmless gut bacteria Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli). 

The team say this ‘bio-amplifier’ might be used in microscopic cellular sensors , which scientists have already developed, that could detect minute traces of chemicals and toxins, to make them more sensitive. Ultimately, this could lead to new types of sensors to detect harmful toxins or diseases in our bodies and in the environment before they do any damage.
In laboratory tests, the team’s bio-amplifier was able to significantly boost the detection limit and sensitivity of a sensor designed to detect the toxin arsenic. The device is also modular, which means that the devices can be easily introduced in different genetic networks, and can potentially be used to increase the sensitivity and accuracy of a broad range of other genetic sensors to detect pathogens and toxins.
The results of the study are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. 
Dr Baojun Wang, who is now based at the University of Edinburgh, but carried out the study while in the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology at Imperial, said: “One potential use of this technology would be to deploy microscopic sensors equipped with our bio-amplifier component into a water network. Swarms of the sensors could then detect harmful or dangerous toxins that might be hazardous to our health. The bio-amplifiers in the sensors enable us to detect even minute amounts of dangerous toxins, which would be of huge benefit to water quality controllers.”
Scientists have previously known that cells have their own inbuilt amplifiers to first detect and then boost biological signals, which are crucial for survival and reproduction. They have been attempting to understand how they work in more detail so as to remodel them for other applications. However the challenge for scientists has been engineering a device that can predictably amplify signals without distortion or feedback.
In the study, scientists first re-engineered genes involved in a special cell network called hrp (hypersensitive response and pathogenicity), which have naturally occurring amplifying proteins that function just like an electronic amplifier. They then cloned these amplifying components and inserted them into the harmless gut bacteria E. coli, fitting it with a synthetic arsenic input sensor and a fluorescent green protein gene as the output.  ..."


http://bit.ly/Yadvkb

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Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future — Editor’s Picks — Medium

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future — Editor’s Picks — Medium | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
A few years ago, I started looking online to fill in chapters of my family history that no one had ever spoken of.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Maryn McKenna has consistenly written about the threat of increasing antibiotic resistance for some time and her articles in Wired and other media are worth finding and reading. This is her long form essay on medium, it covers some of the same ground as her other articles it is still very much but its worth reading and reflecting on. 

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Eli Levine's curator insight, April 30, 2014 8:41 PM

It seems that we are about to get closer to death, as our antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and all other methods of cheating death, disease and crop failure fail.

 

This is before we get into conversations about the looming international and intranational conflicts that are simmering beneath the surface.  At least these can be dealt with with sensible policy changes and changes in attitude, perspective and disposition, if not out right content in our leadership cadres.

 

But alas, I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.

 

Time is ticking away.

 

And we too will go through an indiscriminate die off phase where friends and family will die off, along with enemies and pestilential people as well.

 

I'd like to think that we'd come off better than before.

 

But, that's the thing about these indiscriminate methods of killing large swaths of the population.  It very rarely yields anything other than what was already present.

 

At least wages should be better, due to the new shortage of laborers (assuming that robots haven't taken over our labor force in the meantime).

 

I'd like to think that our lot is constantly improving, even during these negative phases.

 

But, I know that it's not going to be easy, especially for most of our Western and American population who don't have experience handling these kinds of things.

 

Ah well.

 

Think about it.

 

 

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What Comes After Antibiotics? 5 Alternatives to Stop Superbugs

What Comes After Antibiotics? 5 Alternatives to Stop Superbugs | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
"Superbug" bacterial infections that are resistant to common antibiotics are increasing at an alarming rate. But traditional antibiotics aren't the only way to battle dangerous germs. Biomedical scientists are investigating new additions to their arsenal.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Given the WHO announcement that antibacterial resistance is now a global threat - article on popular mechanic outlines some of the alternate treatments to antibiotics.

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'Golden age' of antibiotics 'set to end'

'Golden age' of antibiotics 'set to end' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

We cannot say we weren't warned. The growing threat of antibiotic resistant organisms is once again in the spotlight. Prof Jeremy Farrar, the new head of Britain's biggest medical research charity the Wellcome Trust said it was a "truly global issue". In his first major interview since taking up his post, Prof Farrar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the golden age of antibiotics could come to an end unless action is taken

ComplexInsight's insight:

Prof. Farrar's comments echo those of England's Chief Medical Officer - Sally Davies and the US's Center for Disease Control. As the BBC report shows - warnings regarding the state of anti-biotic effectiveness and bacterial resistance and potential impact started occuring in government circles in the mid 1990's. The World Health Assembly of the WHO will discuss the issue in May 2014. 

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Bacteria 'have lessons for economy'

Bacteria 'have lessons for economy' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
Colonies of bacteria balance growth against risk, just like financial investors, ecologists have found.
ComplexInsight's insight:

Almost half a century ago Richard Levins first suggested that trade-offs in organisms' investment decisions lead to them exploiting different niches, and this concept may apply both in biological ecology and in financial markets, but it has not previously been demonstrated as clearly by experimental observations. Using lab-based synthetic biology, experiments in bacterial evolution, and mathematical modelling a new study test Levins hypothesis and  finds links between behavioural patterns of micro-organisms and markets.  A research group from the UK and Australia used strains of the bacterium E. coli that were constrained in the amount of resource that they had for growth, but that were also subjected to varying degrees of biological stress. The work is described in a paper in the journal Ecology Letters and covered by the BBC Science team.

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New virus 'not following Sars' path'

New virus 'not following Sars' path' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it
The new Mers virus, which has killed half of those infected, is "unlikely" to reach the same scale as Sars, ministers in Saudi Arabia say.
ComplexInsight's insight:

The source of the Mers virus is still unknown. Given that Mers is from the same group of viruses as Sars and Common Cold - understanding the genotype and phenotype differences and how they relate to pathogenic and vector pathways  in its related family could help to better understand both Mers and related groups and perhaps indicate a source. Viral evolution is something we still know relatively little about - and understanding of how they coevolve and relate to microbial habitat are becoming increasingly important to health planning and treatments.

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Researchers glimpse microbial 'dark matter'

Researchers glimpse microbial 'dark matter' | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

Led by Tanja Woyke, a microbiologist at the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, researchers used single-cell sequencing to read the genomes of 201 bacterial and archaeal cells taken from nine diverse environments, such as hydrothermal vents and an underground gold mine. None of the organisms had ever been sequenced or cultivated in a laboratory. The results are published today in Nature1.

ComplexInsight's insight:

The ability to use single cell sequencing gives a whole new insight into microbial and bacterial worlds. The research highlights not only how we will be reassessing our definitions and classifications of bacterial and archaeal kingdoms but also the range of adaptations that wait to be discovered.

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Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows

Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows | Complex Insight  - Understanding our world | Scoop.it

UCLA researchers now have the first evidence that bacteria ingested in food can affect brain function in humans. In an early proof-of-concept study of healthy women, they found that women who regularly consumed beneficial bacteria known as probiotics through yogurt showed altered brain function, both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

ComplexInsight's insight:

Gut instinct and trust your gut are expressions we use often - researchers at UCLA have now shown there is more to it that simply vernacular expression. Understanding the role of bacteria and human health ecology is becoming far more important to human health than our initial approach of bombing them with anti-biotics first suggested. The new study from UCLA has implications for use of anti-biotics with neonatal care, diet and development and potentially areas such as depression. Much more research following these initial findings will be needed but we are only just starting to discover just how complex we actually are.

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