A potential vaccination against the microorganisms that can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs)


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White blood cells seen under a microscope from a urine sample.
By Bobjgalindo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5652287

In order to combat uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), the bacteria responsible for most cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs), a team of scientists from Duke University have created a vaccine. The team explains the development of their vaccine and the results of tests on mice and rabbits in a study published in Science Advances.

Urinary tract infections affect primarily females and cause excruciating discomfort when urinating, as well as additional problems that, if left untreated, can be fatal. Typically, antibiotics are used to treat such illnesses. Some women get persistent infections, resulting in repeated UTI episodes each year.

When this happens, it’s problematic to keep giving out antibiotics, as they wipe out the good bacteria in the gut and can lead to a host of other gastrointestinal issues. The researchers in this study took a novel strategy to treating UTIs by avoiding broad-spectrum antibiotics in favor of a medication that kills only the culprit bacteria.

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Medical professionals have struggled for years to develop an effective vaccine against urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to the cellular mucosa that lines the oral and urinary tracts. Researchers attempted multiple strategies, including the modification of medicines with enhanced mucosal penetration, to address this issue.

By exposing the immune system to three peptides found on the surface of UPEC, they were able to create a type of peptide nanofiber that could not only enter the mucosa but also teach the immune system to recognize and attack UPEC. Due to the similarity between the mucous membranes lining the mouth and the urine tract, it was discovered that the vaccine administration strategy induced an immune response in the urinary tract. The team’s pills dissolve in the mouth and are taken underneath the tongue.

The researchers found that their vaccination was equally effective as standard antibiotics and that repeated administration did not cause intestinal discomfort when tested on mice and rabbits. Antibiotic resistance could be slowed if the vaccination is shown to be effective in humans. This would significantly reduce the quantity of antibiotics used to treat infections.

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Sources:

Sean H. Kelly et al. (2022). A sublingual nanofiber vaccine to prevent urinary tract infections, Science AdvancesDOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq4120

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-vaccine-bacteria-utis.html


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Five new black coral species were discovered by researchers a few thousand feet below the surface near the Great Barrier Reef


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underwater photography of fish
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

With the use of a remote-controlled submarine, researchers have found five new species of black corals in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, situated off the coast of Australia.

Some species of black coral can live for almost 4,000 years, and they can be found growing in seas as shallow as a few feet deep and as deep as over 25,000 feet. Some of these corals are straight as a sword, while others have many branches and resemble feathers, fans, or shrubs. Black corals are filter feeders, meaning they consume the plentiful zooplankton found in deep waters, as opposed to their colorful, shallow-water relatives, which rely on the light and photosynthesis for energy.

In 2019 and 2020, a researcher explored the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea with a team of Australian scientists using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) submarine from the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Their  mission was to gather coral samples from depths of 130 feet to 6,000 feet (40 meters to 1,800 meters) in order to better understand the diversity of coral species found in these seas. Dredging and trawling were once common practices for extracting corals from the region’s depths, but they often resulted in the corals’ destruction.

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To see and securely harvest deep sea corals in their natural habitats, these researchers were the first to send a robot to these specific deep-water ecosystems during their two missions. The researchers  logged 31 dives and brought back 60 pieces of black coral. Using the rover’s robotic claws, they had carefully pry the corals from the sand on the floor or the wall of the reef, deposit them in a pressurized, temperature-controlled storage box, and then transport the box to the surface. After that, the researchers did things like sequence the corals’ DNA and look at their morphological characteristics.

Five new species were discovered among the many fascinating specimens, including one growing on the shell of a nautilus more than 2,500 feet (760 meters) below the ocean’s surface.

Black corals, like the colorful reefs they inspire at shallower waters, provide crucial habitats for fish and invertebrates by providing food and a place to hide from predators in an otherwise lifeless environment. For instance, in 2005, off the coast of California, researchers gathered a single black coral colony that was home to 2,554 different species of invertebrates.

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The deep water may be home to many more species than was previously believed, according to new research. Only about 300 species of black corals have been described so far, so the team’s discovery of five new species in a relatively small area was both unexpected and thrilling. Illegal collection of black corals for the jewelry trade threatens many populations. Researchers need to know what species reside at these depths and the ranges of specific species in order to undertake wise conservation of these fascinating and hard-to-reach ecosystems.

Scientists continue to find new creatures in the deep water with each expedition they undertake. The best thing scientists can do to learn more about the species that reside there and their distribution is to simply explore more.

Since few deep-sea black coral specimens have been found and so many undescribed species are probably still out there, there is also a lot to learn about the evolutionary tree of corals. The more species that are discovered by scientists, the more we will learn about their evolutionary history, including how they have survived at least four great extinction catastrophes.

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Next, the researchers continue their exploration of the ocean floor. Most of the black coral species known to science have not yet had their DNA collected. Scientists  hope to better understand and conserve the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reef ecosystems in the Coral Sea by visiting other deep reefs on future expeditions.

Sources:

JEREMY HOROWITZ et al. (2022). Five new species of black coral (Anthozoa; Antipatharia) from the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, Australia, ZootaxaDOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5213.1.1

https://phys.org/news/2022-11-scientists-species-black-corals-thousands.html


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Spinal cord injuries have better outcomes when treated with stem cell transplants and regenerative therapy together


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By Pdevesap – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45324227

Recently, researchers have made significant progress in utilizing animal models to implant neural stem cells or grafts to enhance tissue regeneration in spinal cord injuries (SCI). Various studies have demonstrated that extensive physical rehabilitation can enhance function after SCI by encouraging expanded or alternative functions for surviving cells and neural networks.

In a new publication published in the journal JCI Insight on August 22, 2022, researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine investigate the hypothesis that the addition of pro-regenerative therapies like stem cell grafting to rehabilitation improves functional outcomes.

Scientists used a rat model to study how a cervical lesion affected the animal’s ability to grasp with its upper limbs. Animals were split into four groups: those that only underwent the lesion, those that underwent the lesion and a subsequent grafting of neural stem cells designed to grow and connect to existing nerves, those that underwent rehabilitation only, and those that underwent both stem cell therapy and rehabilitation.

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Some of the animals began their rehabilitation therapy one month after their injuries occurred, which is roughly when people with SCI are admitted to rehabilitation facilities. Animals were rewarded with food pellets every day as part of their rehabilitation, which involved a series of regular tasks designed to improve their gripping abilities.

Researchers showed that rehabilitation accelerated the recovery of forelimb grasping ability when applied one month after damage, and that grafting helped injured corticospinal axons regenerate at the lesion location.

First author Paul Lu, PhD, associate adjunct professor of neuroscience at UC San San Diego School of Medicine and research health science specialist at the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System commented that these new findings demonstrate that rehabilitation plays a crucial role in enhancing functional recovery when coupled with a pro-regenerative treatment, such as a neural stem cell transplant.

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When compared to the current standard of care for persons with SCI, the researchers identified a remarkably powerful advantage of intense physical therapy when administered as a daily routine.

UC San Diego School of Medicine professor of neurosciences and head of the Translational Neuroscience Institute Mark H. Tuszynski, MD, PhD, and colleagues have been working for a long time to solve the complicated issues of treating SCIs and restoring function.

Example: in 2020, researchers reported on the beneficial effects of neural stem cell transplants in rats, while in 2019 they presented 3D-printed implantable scaffolding that would encourage nerve cell proliferation.

The medical community has yet to fully address the issue of spinal cord injury. Approximately 18,000 people in the United States sustain SCIs annually, and another 294,000 people are living with a SCI, most often resulting in permanent paralysis or decreased physical function such as loss of bladder control or difficulties in breathing.

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After spinal cord injury, there is a significant unmet need to better regenerative therapy.  In the next two years, researchers plan to conduct human clinical trials using the findings from this study in the hopes that they would pave the way for a new treatment method including the combination of neural stem cell grafts and rehabilitation.

Sources:

University of California – San Diego. (2022, October 28). Stem cell grafts and rehabilitation combined boost spinal cord injury results. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221028121015.htm

Paul Lu, Camila M. Freria, Lori Graham, Amanda N. Tran, Ashley Villarta, Dena Yassin, J. Russell Huie, Adam R. Ferguson, Mark H. Tuszynski. Rehabilitation combined with neural progenitor cell grafts enables functional recovery in chronic spinal cord injury. JCI Insight, 2022; 7 (16) DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.158000


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Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations


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role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella
By NIAID: These high-resolution (300 dpi) images may be downloaded directly from this site., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=450281

Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations

It has been discovered by researchers at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia how resistance has facilitated the spread of virulent Salmonella variants. Some bacteria and viruses have developed resistance to antibiotics and bacteriophages, which might provide them a temporary survival advantage.

New strategies to tackle disease-causing germs are being sought as antibiotic resistance rises.

Researchers are exploring viruses as a potential source of information to fight bacteria. Some viruses can only multiply by attaching to bacteria, and there are more of them on Earth than there are stars in the galaxy. Because they are effective at eliminating their bacterial hosts, bacteriophages might become one of the new tools in the battle against bacterial illnesses.

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Salmonella bacteria play an important factor in the spread of illness over the world. Salmonella entericaserovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) is a member of the Salmonella genus that causes sickness in humans and animals and is responsible for 78 million annual cases of illness worldwide.

The ability of Salmonella Typhimurium to undergo genetic changes and hence overcome resistance is largely responsible for the bacteria’s widespread success. As a result, related strains come and go in waves, dominating for about a decade before being replaced by others. It’s like attempting to strike a moving target to create new treatments to combat these strains, as they may be more resistant to previous attempts of controlling them.

Researchers led by Professor Rob Kingsley of the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia have been investigating the genome of Salmonella to learn more about the bacteria’s resilience and how mutations in the genetic code have given certain strains an advantage. For instance, research from 2021 showed how Salmonella finds its niche in the pig industry.

Now, in a new study published in Microbial Genomics, researchers have examined the impact of bacteriophage resistance on Salmonella populations in the wild and how this predator-prey relationship has co-evolved through time.

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In addition to preying on bacteria, bacteriophages may also aid in the transfer of genetic material across different bacterial species, making the interaction between them rather complicated. The reason for this is because phages can play a role in a process known as phage-mediated transduction, which facilitates the spread of genetic variety and the transmission of resistance genes across bacterial populations.

Like antibiotics, the clue to understanding the possible development of resistance to phage therapy is in how resistance develops in nature. The researchers said that there is a resurging interest in the use of phages as a substitute or as an accompaniment to antibiotic treatment for bacterial infections.

Researchers analyzed entire genome sequences of strains acquired from human and animal illnesses over the past few decades in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA).

They discovered that Salmonella strains that are particularly well-adapted to life in animals are also the kinds most likely to cause sickness in people. This bacterium’s phage-resistance seems to have aided its ability to colonize novel ecosystems.

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Current dominant strain ST34 is not only resistant to numerous medications, but also displays increased resistance to bacteriophage infection compared to its predecessors. This is likely attributable to the organism having acquired phage genetic material into its genome, a move that conferred upon it a higher level of resistance to bacteriophage attack.

However, this creates a fascinating paradox since bacteria that have developed resistance to phages are less likely to acquire new genetic material via phage-mediated transduction, which might include resistance genes. Could the temporary benefit of phage resistance result in the permanent loss of adaptability, rendering bacteria vulnerable to social interventions and perhaps novel antimicrobial treatments? Data from surveillance reveals this might pave the way for the formation of a new clone that would eventually replace the existing one.

Genomic monitoring of these bacteria and their bacteriophages is essential to detect and respond to any new dangers, no matter what the circumstances. The researchers have a greater chance of mitigating the risks posed to human health by these bacteria if we understand how they co-evolve.

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Sources:

Oliver J. Charity et al. (2022). Increased phage resistance through lysogenic conversion accompanying emergence of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium ST34 pandemic strain, Microbial GenomicsDOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000897

https://phys.org/news/2022-11-bacteriophage-resistance-salmonella-populations.html


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Research Abstract: Hyperexpansion of RNA Bacteriophage Diversity

Abstract Bacteriophage modulation of microbial populations impacts critical processes in ocean, soil, and animal ecosystems. However, the role of bacteriophages with RNA genomes (RNA bacteriophages) in these processes is poorly understood, in part because of the limited number of known RNA bacteriophage species. Here, we identify partial genome sequences of 122 RNA bacteriophage phylotypes that … Continue reading

Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations

It has been discovered by researchers at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia how resistance has facilitated the spread of virulent Salmonella variants. Some bacteria and viruses have developed resistance to antibiotics and bacteriophages, which might provide them a temporary survival advantage. New strategies to tackle disease-causing germs are being sought as … Continue reading

Research Summary: Genome Landscapes and Bacteriophage Codon Usage

Abstract Across all kingdoms of biological life, protein-coding genes exhibit unequal usage of synonymous codons. Although alternative theories abound, translational selection has been accepted as an important mechanism that shapes the patterns of codon usage in prokaryotes and simple eukaryotes. Here we analyze patterns of codon usage across 74 diverse bacteriophages that infect E. coli, … Continue reading

Stem cells were sent into space by the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego


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stem cells sent to space earth planet
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Stem cells were sent into space by the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego

After spending a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Scott Kelly underwent a series of tests upon his return to Earth that found abnormalities in his blood cells consistent with pre-leukemic conditions. Before, these kinds of cellular abnormalities have been seen in blood, but only after years of human aging had passed.

There is mounting evidence that the weightless environment of space can imitate and accelerate the aging process in human stem cells, especially those that are responsible for the production of blood cells. However, not only the knowledge of this process helpful for preserving the health of astronauts, but it also has the potential to teach us how to delay the consequences of aging here on Earth.

The Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego conducted the world’s first space launch of hematopoietic (blood) stem cells on November 22, 2022. As part of UC San Diego’s Integrated Space Stem Cell Orbital Research (ISSCOR) Center, which was founded with support from the JM Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, stem cells have been sent aboard the ISS for the third time.

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According to Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, director of the Sanford Stem Cell Institute and Koman Family Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine, ISSCOR is teaching them a lot about how space and aging may affect stem cell biology. However, if they can’t reproduce the results, they don’t have a scientific advance.  The researchers sent stem cells into space for the third time, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that this will be a successful mission.

The researchers aim for this launch is to bring rigor and repeatability to these studies, said Jessica Pham, manager of the ISSCOR Center. They are utilizing gravity to generate gravitas.

Jamieson’s and his colleagues’ research has shown that stem cells age differently in different people; however, scientists are still trying to determine how much of this variation can be attributed to hardwired genetic factors and how much can be attributed to the unique microenvironment that exists within each person’s body.

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For instance, research has shown that when the environment of the bone marrow gets inflamed, this can impose stress on blood stem cells that are in the process of growing and damage their DNA. This can eventually lead to pre-leukemic blood diseases.

It is increasingly clear that the way stem cells age depends on what they are exposed to, and the more the researchers understand this process, the more precisely they can intercept the development of cancer and turn back the clock on human aging. In other words, stem cells age differently depending on what they are exposed to.

Researchers at the Sanford Stem Cell Institute went to utilize space as a kind of “aging accelerator.” First, they are going to make sure that the weightless environment precisely simulates human aging, and then they are going to use that information to further deconstruct the aging process. Without having to rely on time-consuming and costly clinical studies tracking earthbound individuals as they age, the project will provide scientists and doctors with crucial information that will further their understanding of stem cell aging.

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The trials mark the beginning of an expanding scientific activity in space, which, thanks to the regulated conditions and rapid speed, has the potential to make steps forward in a variety of subdisciplines of the health sciences. In further missions, researchers plan to investigate not just partial aspects of stem cell biology but also the aging process in several different types of tissues, including the liver and the brain.

Sources:

https://today.ucsd.edu/story/uc-san-diego-sanford-stem-cell-institute-launches-stem-cells-into-space


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Research Summary: Stepwise Development of Hematopoietic Stem Cells from Embryonic Stem Cells

ABSTRACT The cellular ontogeny of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) remains poorly understood because their isolation from and their identification in early developing small embryos are difficult. We attempted to dissect early developmental stages of HSCs using an in vitro mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation system combined with inducible HOXB4 expression. Here we report the … Continue reading

Research Summary: Strategies to Rescue Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs) from NK Cell Mediated Cytotoxicity

ABSTRACT Background The aim of this paper is to study the function of allogeneic and autologous NK cells against Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs) and Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and to determine the function of NK cells in a three way interaction with monocytes and stem cells. Methodology/Principal Findings We demonstrate here that freshly isolated … Continue reading

Introduction to stem cells and regenerative medicine. Kolios G, Moodley Y.

Why and how fungus produce dangerous poisons that might contaminate food


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Why and how fungus produce dangerous poisons that might contaminate food

The consumption of food that has been contaminated with fungus can, at best, be an annoyance, and at worst, it can be fatal. However, recent study has shown that eliminating only one protein might leave certain fungal toxins powerless, which could be considered to be positive news for the safety of food.

Certain fungi are responsible for the production of poisonous substances known as mycotoxins. These chemicals not only cause food to become spoiled, such as grains, but they may also make people sick. People who are exposed to aflatoxins, which are one of the more harmful forms of mycotoxins, have an increased risk of developing liver cancer as well as other health issues.

Ozgür Bayram, a researcher who studies fungi at Maynooth University in Ireland, describes mold as a “silent threat” because most people are unaware that food like maize or wheat has gone bad.

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Researchers have known for many years that some fungi are responsible for the production of these poisons; however, they were unaware of all the specifics. Now, Bayram and his colleagues have isolated a collection of proteins that are accountable for activating the formation of mycotoxins. According to the findings that were published in the edition of Nucleic Acids Research that was dated September 23, genetic engineering the fungus Aspergillus nidulans to delete even just one of the proteins is sufficient to stop the production of the toxins.

Felicia Wu, a food safety expert at Michigan State University in East Lansing who was not involved in the research, said that there is a long string of genes that is involved with the production of proteins that, in a cascading effect, will result in the production of different mycotoxins. There is a long string of genes that is involved with the production of proteins.

According to Bayram, the newly discovered proteins function much like the key that is used to start an automobile. The researchers intended to find a way to get rid of the key and stop the beginning signal from being transmitted, which would ensure that no toxins would be produced in the first place.

The proteins that make up A. nidulans were analyzed by Bayram and his colleagues, and the results showed that the key is composed of four different proteins working together. The scientists modified the genetic make-up of the fungus such that it would eliminate each protein in turn. According to the findings of the research team, mycotoxin ignition is prevented if any one of the four proteins is absent.

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Deactivating the same group of proteins in the closely related fungus A. flavus, which is capable of producing aflatoxins, stops the generation of those toxins, according to Bayram’s findings from another work that has not yet been published. According to the researchers, this is a huge success since they see that the same protein complex does the same job in at least two fungi.

According to Wu, building upon a set of study that has been done over decades is what the current research is doing to prevent the contamination of food by fungi. The remediation of such contamination already makes use of a wide variety of strategies. According to Wu’s explanation, one approach for preventing contamination is to sprinkle harmless strains of A. flavus over fields of corn and peanuts. This is possible due to the fact that not all strains of A. flavus generate aflatoxins. These fungi reproduce quickly and have the potential to stop other harmful strains from establishing a foothold in the area.

Researchers are employing genetic engineering in a variety of different methods to attempt to battle the poisons found in food, and this research is just one of those approaches.  The newly discovered information may one day be put to use by genetically modifying a fungus that produces toxins and then applying it, for example, to agricultural crops or in other contexts. The researchers According to Bayram,we can virtually prevent aflatoxin contamination in food, for example, in the field, even in the warehouses, where a lot of contamination takes place. This statement was made in reference to the food industry.

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It is believed that fungus and organisms similar to fungi that are known as water molds are responsible for destroying one third of the world’s food crops each year. Bayram predicts that the amount of food that might be saved if the contamination could be stopped would be sufficient to feed 800 million people in the year 2022.

According to Wu, the newly published research is an encouraging step in the right direction; but, it will continue to be a struggle to attempt to understand how this may be operationalized for agricultural objectives.  According to her, it is not certain how scalable the process is, and it may be difficult to persuade regulatory officials in the United States to accept the use of a genetically modified fungus on important food crops.

Sources:

Betim Karahoda, Lakhansing Pardeshi, Mevlut Ulas, Zhiqiang Dong, Niranjan Shirgaonkar, Shuhui Guo, Fang Wang, Kaeling Tan, Özlem Sarikaya-Bayram, Ingo Bauer, Paul Dowling, Alastair B Fleming, Brandon T Pfannenstiel, Dianiris Luciano-Rosario, Harald Berger, Stefan Graessle, Mohamed M Alhussain, Joseph Strauss, Nancy P Keller, Koon Ho Wong, Özgür Bayram, The KdmB-EcoA-RpdA-SntB chromatin complex binds regulatory genes and coordinates fungal development with mycotoxin synthesis, Nucleic Acids Research, Volume 50, Issue 17, 23 September 2022, Pages 9797–9813, https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkac744


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Research Summary: Morphophysiological Differences between the Metapleural Glands of Fungus-Growing and Non–Fungus-Growing Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

ABSTRACT The metapleural gland is an organ exclusive to ants. Its main role is to produce secretions that inhibit the proliferation of different types of pathogens. The aim of the present study was to examine the morphophysiological differences between the metapleural gland of 3 non–fungus-growing ants of the tribes Ectatommini, Myrmicini, and Blepharidattini and that … Continue reading

Research Summary: The Dynamics of Plant Cell-Wall Polysaccharide Decomposition in Leaf-Cutting Ant Fungus Gardens

ABSTRACT The degradation of live plant biomass in fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants is poorly characterised but fundamental for understanding the mutual advantages and efficiency of this obligate nutritional symbiosis. Controversies about the extent to which the garden-symbiont Leucocoprinus gongylophorus degrades cellulose have hampered our understanding of the selection forces that induced large scale herbivory … Continue reading

Ecology and Evolution of Insect-Fungus Mutualisms. Biedermann PHW, Vega FE.

Scientists at the Salk Institute find anti-inflammatory molecules that decline with age in the brain


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Image by Raman Oza from Pixabay

Scientists at the Salk Institute find anti-inflammatory molecules that decline with age in the brain

Inflammation, stress, and shifts in metabolism are just a few of the many players in the process of aging. Scientists from the Salk Institute and the University of California, San Diego have discovered a group of lipids known as SGDGs (3-sulfogalactosyl diacylglycerols) that decline in the brain with age and may have anti-inflammatory effects, adding to the list of factors implicated in the aging process.

Published in Nature Chemical Biology on October 20, 2022, the study contributes to the understanding of the molecular foundation of brain aging, sheds light on the mechanisms behind age-related neurological illnesses, and opens up prospects for clinical treatment in the future.

Professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at Salk and holder of the Dr. Frederik Paulsen Chair Alan Saghatelian said that these SGDGs clearly play a crucial role in aging, and this finding provides the opportunity that there are additional critical aging mechanisms we’ve been missing. The researchers added that it seems like this is the kind of thing that has to be investigated further down the road.

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The lipids, or fats, of which SGDGs are a subclass. However, improper regulation of lipids has been related to accelerated brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Lipids play an important role in brain structure, development, and function when they are present in healthy levels. But unlike genes and proteins, lipids are not well understood, and they have been largely ignored in studies of aging. Saghatelian has made a name for himself in the field of lipid structure determination and discovery.

With the help of UC San Diego’s Professor Dionicio Siegel, his lab made three SGDG-related discoveries: Lipid levels in the brain of older mice are drastically different from those of younger mice; SGDGs and all related lipids undergo substantial changes with age; and SGDGs may be regulated by systems known to influence aging.

To get at these results, the researchers utilized a novel, exploratory method by integrating structural chemistry and high-throughput data analytics with the large-scale study of lipids. Lipid profiles of mouse brains were originally collected using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry at five different ages, spanning from one to eighteen months. The number of measurements that could be taken by this equipment has increased dramatically thanks to technological advancements, and sophisticated data analysis has allowed researchers to identify age-related trends in the massive lipid profiles that have been generated. Afterwards, they built SGDG molecules and examined their biological efficacy.

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Since its discovery in the 1970s, however, SGDGs have received little additional research. The lipid databases did not include these compounds because they were practically forgotten. Postdoctoral fellow in Saghatelian’s group at Salk and first author Dan Tan added that nobody realized SGDGs would change or be regulated in aging, let alone that they have bioactivity and, maybe, be therapeutically targetable.

The results of the study demonstrated that SGDGs have anti-inflammatory effects, which may be of importance in the treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses and other neurological ailments characterized by elevated brain inflammation.

SGDGs were also found in the brains of humans and primates, suggesting that they may have vital functions outside of mice. To prove that SGDGs play a role in human neuroinflammation, more study is needed.

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To find new genetic activity related with aging, the team plans to investigate how SGDGs are controlled with age and which proteins are responsible for their production and breakdown in the future.

Siegel, co-corresponding author of the paper, explains that they now know the structure of SGDGs and can synthesize them in the lab, the study of these critical lipids is wide open and ripe for exploration.

Sources:

Tan, D., Konduri, S., Erikci Ertunc, M. et al. A class of anti-inflammatory lipids decrease with aging in the central nervous system. Nat Chem Biol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41589-022-01165-6


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ABSTRACT Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders of aging are characterized by clinical and pathological features that are relatively specific to humans. To obtain greater insight into how brain aging has evolved, we compared age-related gene expression changes in the cortex of humans, rhesus macaques, and mice on a genome-wide scale. A small subset of … Continue reading

Research Summary: Distinct Transcriptome Expression of the Temporal Cortex of the Primate Microcebus murinus during Brain Aging versus Alzheimer’s Disease-Like Pathology

ABSTRACT Aging is the primary risk factor of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the molecular events occurring during brain aging are extremely complex and still largely unknown. For a better understanding of these age-associated modifications, animal models as close as possible to humans are needed. We thus analyzed the transcriptome of the … Continue reading

Biological psychological and social determinants of old age: bio-psycho-social aspects of human aging. Dziechciaż M, Filip R.

The discovery of a bacteria that thrives on nitrogen while also creating methane


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bacteria that thrives on nitrogen while also creating methane
Image by Prawny from Pixabay

The discovery of a bacteria that thrives on nitrogen while also creating methane

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology have improved cultivation of a microbe that fixes nitrogen while creating methane and ammonia, and they have uncovered intriguing features of the organism’s biochemistry.

Carbon and nitrogen are the building blocks of all living things. Methanothermococcus thermolithotrophicus is one of the organisms that play a crucial role in the recycling of both of these elements. An equally convoluted microorganism bears this name. The methanogen M. thermolithotrophicus thrives in warm maritime environments.

It prefers temperatures of roughly 65 °C and can be found in the sediments of the ocean everywhere from the shallows to the deep sea. By combining hydrogen with nitrogen and carbon dioxide, it produces ammonia and methane. Both ammonia and methane have promising biotechnological uses in the production of fertilizers and alternative fuels.

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At the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, researchers Tristan Wagner and Nevena Masla have accomplished the difficult task of cultivating this bacteria in a fermenter.

The research was conducted by Masla as part of her Ph.D. thesis; she explains that it is quite complicated to produce the optimal conditions for this bacterium to survive while fixing N2, including high temperatures, no oxygen, and careful monitoring of hydrogen and carbon dioxide levels. However, with some creativity and hard work, they were able to get them to flourish in their lab, producing the highest cell densities ever reported.

Once the cultures were established, the researchers could explore further into the organism by examining its physiology and, later, its metabolism as it adapted to N2-fixation. Masla explains that they were able to better understand M. thermolithotrophicus’s metabolism by working closely with their colleagues Chandni Sidhu and Hanno Teeling to conduct a range of physiological tests in conjunction with differential transcriptomics.

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Some of M. thermolithotrophicus’ metabolic traits are intriguing. Methanogenesis, a process with its roots in the early anoxic Earth, is how these microorganisms obtain their cellular energy. When compared to humans, who use oxygen to convert glucose into carbon dioxide, methanogens get only a tiny bit of their energy via methanogenesis. Ironically, they would wear themselves out trying to fix nitrogen because it takes so much energy.

Tristan Wagner, head of the Max Planck Research Group Microbial Metabolism, and the study’s senior author, compares them to bumblebees, which are theoretically too heavy to fly yet clearly able to do so, nonetheless.  However, despite their energy constraints, these interesting bacteria have been discovered to be the primary nitrogen fixers in several ecosystems.

Nitrogenase is the name for the enzyme that helps living things fix nitrogen. Molybdenum is a necessary cofactor for the reaction of the majority of nitrogenases. Bacteria that operate as symbionts in plant roots have been investigated extensively for their molybdenum nitrogenase. Whilst tungstate is effective in inhibiting their nitrogenase, it also has a number of other effects.

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Scientists from Bremen discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, that tungstate does not inhibit the growth of M. thermolithotrophicus when it is fed nitrogen. Their microbe required only molybdenum to fix nitrogen and was unaffected by tungstate, so its metal-acquisition machinery must have evolved to make it more versatile, as Masla puts it.

The primary mechanism by which nitrogen is introduced into the biochemical cycle is known as nitrogen fixation. This is accomplished by the Haber-Bosch process, which artificially fixes nitrogen to make ammonia with hydrogen at very high temperatures and pressures for use in industrial fertilizer manufacturing. Most of the ammonia used as a fertilizer worldwide is produced from this material.

Using the Haber-Bosch method requires a great deal of power: It uses 2% of worldwide energy production while contributing to up to 1.4% of global carbon emissions. Because of this, people are trying to find greener ways to create ammonia.

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Wagner believes that the technique utilized by M. thermolithotrophicus demonstrates that there are still options in the microbial world that can allow for more effective synthesis of ammonia, and that they might even be integrated with biofuel generation through methane.

Wagner said they understood that under nitrogen-fixing conditions, the methanogen reduces its production of proteins to promote nitrogen capture, a particularly smart technique of energy reallocation. Researchers will investigate the enzymes and molecular mechanisms of this process, in addition to expanding their investigation to other metabolic pathways in the organism.

Keywords: bacteria that thrives on nitrogen while also creating methane

Sources:

Nevena Maslać et al. (2022). Comparative Transcriptomics Sheds Light on Remodeling of Gene Expression during Diazotrophy in the Thermophilic Methanogen Methanothermococcus thermolithotrophicus, mBio (2022). DOI: 10.1128/mbio.02443-22

https://phys.org/news/2022-11-insights-hot-microbe-nitrogen-methane.html


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Research Summary: Nitrogen Fixation in Denitrified Marine Waters

ABSTRACT Nitrogen fixation is an essential process that biologically transforms atmospheric dinitrogen gas to ammonia, therefore compensating for nitrogen losses occurring via denitrification and anammox. Currently, inputs and losses of nitrogen to the ocean resulting from these processes are thought to be spatially separated: nitrogen fixation takes place primarily in open ocean environments (mainly through … Continue reading

Research Summary: Temperature-Induced Increase in Methane Release from Peat Bogs: A Mesocosm Experiment

ABSTRACT Peat bogs are primarily situated at mid to high latitudes and future climatic change projections indicate that these areas may become increasingly wetter and warmer. Methane emissions from peat bogs are reduced by symbiotic methane oxidizing bacteria (methanotrophs). Higher temperatures and increasing water levels will enhance methane production, but also methane oxidation. To unravel … Continue reading

Nitrogen cycling in the gut. Fuller MF, Reeds PJ.

Parasite provides wolves the ability to become dominant in their packs


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wolves become dominant grey and white wolf selective focus photography
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Parasite provides wolves the ability to become dominant in their packs

A study of almost 200 wolves in North America found that sick wolves were more likely to take charge of their group than their healthy counterparts. Furthermore, infected animals are more inclined to abandon their social groups and venture out on their own.

Toxoplasma gondii’s parasitic effect on its hosts’ confidence is a survival mechanism. T. gondii has to enter the cat’s body through the digestive system of its host in order to reproduce sexually. If the parasite influences the host to act recklessly, that outcome becomes more likely. Although studies have found conflicting results, infection is typically associated with less fear of cats and more exploratory behavior in rodents. People’s bodies and minds shift as a result, with increased testosterone and dopamine production and risk-taking behavior.

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By consuming infected animals or swallowing T. gondii forms excreted in the feces of infected cats, warm-blooded mammals can contract the parasite. Muscle and brain cysts arise after an acute infection and remain latent for the duration of the host’s life. Up to a third of the population may be permanently afflicted.

Although T. gondii infections are common in wildlife, the effects on their behavior are poorly understood. A study found that the likelihood of lions preying on diseased hyenas in Kenya increased. Wildlife ecologists Connor Meyer and Kira Cassidy from the University of Montana in Missoula identified a unique chance to connect infection and behavior in wild wolves when they saw the extensive data on grey wolves (Canis lupus) collected in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, over the course of nearly 27 years. Yellowstone is home to both cougars (Puma concolor) and wolves, and the latter are known to steal prey from the former on occasion. The wolves risk infection if they consume the cats or their waste.

The researchers analyzed 256 blood samples from 229 wolves that had been tracked and studied for their whole lifetimes, with information on each animal’s social position and health documented. Meyer and Cassidy found that infected wolves were 46 times more likely to become pack leaders — frequently the only wolves in the pack that reproduce — and 11 times more likely to leave their birth family to create a new pack.

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Meyer said that they got the result, and they just open-mouth stared at each other.  This is far larger than they anticipated.  The study appears in the current issue of Communications Biology.

This study provides solid evidence of the tremendous influence that diseases can have on the ecology and behavior of wild animal populations, according to Dan Macnulty, a wolf scientist at Utah State University in Logan. He also says it illustrates how important it is to keep track of wolves and other animals over time in Yellowstone.

The group plans to investigate in the future whether or not infection improves the chances of wolf reproduction and what the ecological effects of low or high infection rates might be. Because infected wolves have the option to move anywhere, a wolf population with a high T. gondii infection rate may grow rapidly across a landscape. If the pack leader is overly bold and reckless, the entire pack may soon follow, increasing the likelihood of a run-in with a cougar and putting more pack members at danger of contracting the disease.

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Meyer concludes that this tale demonstrates how parasites can function as key components of ecosystems. He suggests that parasites may play a more important function than is currently believed.

However, Meyer argues that even brave, risk-taking wolves infected with the parasite are unlikely to end up as food for a cougar because of the wolf’s reputation for hunting cougars. He theorizes that American lions (Panthera atrox), enormous feline predators weighing approximately 200 kilos, who prowled North America until they went extinct around 11,000 years ago, could have been more prone to prey on diseased wolves in the past.

Keywords: wolves become dominant

Sources:

Meyer, C. J. et al. (2022). Commun. Biol. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-022-04122-0

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-03836-9


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Research Summary: Gray Wolves as Climate Change Buffers in Yellowstone

Abstract Understanding the mechanisms by which climate and predation patterns by top predators co-vary to affect community structure accrues added importance as humans exert growing influence over both climate and regional predator assemblages. In Yellowstone National Park, winter conditions and reintroduced gray wolves (Canis lupus) together determine the availability of winter carrion on which numerous … Continue reading

Research Abstract: Yellowstone Wolves and the Forces That Structure Natural Systems

Abstract The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone has provided fascinating insights into the ways species interactions within food webs structure ecosystems. Recent controversies about whether wolves are responsible for all observed changes in prey and plant abundance suggest that we need many more such studies, as they throw considerable light on the forces that structure … Continue reading

Comparing wolves and dogs: current status and implications for human ‘self-domestication’. Range F, Marshall-Pescini S.

The world’s rarest bird species are the most threatened by extinction, according to a review of 99 percent of the world’s avian species


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The world’s rarest bird species are the most threatened by extinction, according to a review of 99 percent of the world’s avian species

Jarome Ali, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University who completed the research at Imperial College London and was the principal author of the paper said that their work suggests that extinctions would most certainly prune a high fraction of unique species off the avian tree. The particular roles that these rare species provide in ecosystems will disappear if they become extinct.

Ecosystems will be severely affected if we do not take action to safeguard vulnerable species and prevent extinctions.

The authors of the research employed a collection of measurements taken from 9943 different bird species, including living birds and museum specimens. Physical characteristics such as beak size and form as well as the lengths of wings, tails, and legs were measured.

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Based on the IUCN Red List’s current danger classifications for each species, the authors linked the morphological data with the risk of extinction. Then they performed simulations to see what would occur if the most endangered bird species were extinct.

The information utilized in the study was able to demonstrate that the most distinctive birds were also listed as threatened on the Red List, but it failed to demonstrate the relationship between avian uniqueness and extinction risk.

According to Jarome Ali, one theory is that species with the most unique ecological roles may be directly threatened by human influences since highly specialized organisms are less able to adapt to a changing environment. The relationship between distinctive features and extinction danger requires further study.

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Sources:

Jarome Ali et al. (2022). Bird extinctions threaten to cause disproportionate reductions of functional diversity and uniqueness, Functional Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.14201

https://phys.org/news/2022-11-planet-unique-birds-higher-extinction.html


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