Science Story of the Day: Bacteria is there anything they can't do?

Todays science story of the day is actually two stories about the power of the humble bacterium

Bacteria makes diesel

A team of British researchers has taken the humble E.Coli bacteria (strains of which we all carry around inside us) and spliced in dna from a number of sources to create a new strain that converts sugars and yeast extract into a diesel analog that is structurally the same as that which comes out of the pump.

While they haven't nailed down exactly how the new strain of E.Coli (containing dna from sources as diverse as soil bacteria and the Camphor Tree) produces the long form hydrocarbons, the team is now looking at how to scale up the production process to provide a viable alternate source of diesel fuel.

Bacteria vs Cancer

In the long running battle against the big C, not one stone has been left unturned. We've seen the development of radiation therapy, chemo-therapy, genetically engineered virii and more. Bacteria has had it's own part to play, and a new paper has highlighted the ability of bacteria (specifically, a strain of Listeria) to target metasteses (those tumours that have formed from cells that have sloughed off the original, primary tumour).

The team discovered while the strain of Listeria they were working with (A type that penetrated the cell it's targetting) performs poorly in "normal" cells and the primary tumour, it appears that the secondary tumours are vulnerable in a way that the primary isn't. Using this vulnerability, the team "armed" the Listeria bacteria with a radioactive isotope that was known to be damaging to dna and started testing on specially bred mice. The results were heartening to say the least with mice receiving the radioactive bacteria solution having their incidence of secondary tumours reduced by up to 90% over the control group who recieved a saline solution.

It's early days yet, but this could point to an effective way to treat and prevent the occurance of tumour matestisation. Watch this space.


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