Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The miracle of life, 04. 2010

Oceans of Liquid Diamond May Exist On Neptune and Uranus - cool, huh?
I, virus: Why you're only half human - A very interesting article on the symbiosis between humans and viruses. I find it rather convincing.

Hello! This blog was away for too long. I hope I will revamp it little by little. As you can see, the articles I pasted here are all seriously shortened - if you like them, please visit the source site and read them. I'm sick of publishing stuff too long to be read, ever. Now, it would be all about pieces of information. So, I hope you enjoy this post. It's dedicated to the miracles of life and idea that finally emerges - that we know so little about life itself, it's hypocrisy and arrogance to expect anything at all. All can do is to watch and learn, because life is much more sophisticated in survival than we think. Enjoy!
Today:

  1. Researchers synchronize blinking 'genetic clocks' (w/ Video)
  2. Some mouse sperm can identify, and even cooperate with, its brethren
  3. Ancient Tree (Almost) Older Than Dirt
  4. Elixir of youth lurks in blood of conjoined mice
  5. Viruses use 'hive intelligence' to focus their attack
  6. The real Avatar: ocean bacteria act as 'superorganism'

Researchers synchronize blinking 'genetic clocks' (w/ Video)

January 20, 2010
Researchers at UC San Diego who last year genetically engineered bacteria to keep track of time by turning on and off fluorescent proteins within their cells have taken another step toward the construction of a programmable genetic sensor. The scientists recently synchronized these bacterial "genetic clocks" to blink in unison and engineered the bacterial genes to alter their blinking rates when environmental conditions change.

The researchers constructed devices to precisely control the sizes of the bacterial colonies between two different scales: a micron, or a millionth of a meter, and a millimeter, or one-thousandth of a meter. At the micron scales, Hasty said the cells in the colonies oscillate synchronously from 50 to 90 minutes, a period that can be tuned externally. But at the longer, or millimeter scales, he noted, the time for diffusion of the signal becomes more important, allowing the researchers to actually observe the propagation of the signal through the colony. source
My comment: That's a glorious day for bio-sensors I guess.

Some mouse sperm can identify, and even cooperate with, its brethren

January 20, 2010 BY STEVE BRADT
(PhysOrg.com) -- Some mouse sperm can discriminate between its brethren and competing sperm from other males, clustering with its closest relatives to swim faster in the race to the egg. But this sort of cooperation appears to be present only in certain promiscuous species, where it affords an individual's sperm a competitive advantage over that of other males.

This ability of sperm to discriminate between related and unrelated sperm is not seen in , in which sperm of different males are unlikely to ever interact. The results suggest that competition among males drives among their sperm.

Fisher and Hoekstra studied sperm from two species of deer mice, Peromyscus polionotus and Peromyscus maniculatus. Although closely related, these two species differ greatly in their : P. polionotus is monogamous, while P. maniculatus females are promiscuous, mating with successive males as little as one minute apart.

The scientists found that only sperm from the promiscuous species showed the ability to discriminate between closely related and more distantly related sperm. When sperm from different P. polionotus males was combined in a Petri dish, it showed no selective . source

My comment:"The results suggest that competition among males drives among their sperm." Nooo, that sounds so fun! Really :) And anyway, it proves why promiscuity is something good. Evolutionary, at least.

Ancient Tree (Almost) Older Than Dirt

By Michael Reilly | Wed Dec 23, 2009 08:40 AM ET

At the top of a small hill in suburban southern California, there is what appears to be a thicket of stunted, gnarled oak trees wedged between a pile of boulders.

The entire grove of trunks is in fact one plant, a newly discovered Palmer's oak (Quercus palmeri) that researchers estimate is over 13,000 years old, making it one of the oldest plants on Earth.

Researchers, led by Jeffery Ross-Ibarra of the University of California, Davis, found the tree a decade ago during a routine survey of local plant life.

It's easy to miss; none of its 70 stems get more than a few feet tall, and it grows in a boulder pile that doubles as shelter from the area's buffeting winds.

Genetic analysis confirmed their suspicion. Each of the 70 stems are genetically identical; they are the same plant, currently growing in an oval 25 yards long and 8 yards wide.

Scientists estimate an Aspen stand in Utah, called Pando, may be tens of thousands of years old, though estimates vary widely. And a creosote bush growing in the Mojave Desert -- dubbed King Clone -- has been reliably dated at nearly 12,000 years old using carbon isotopes.But any trace of ancient wood has been lost to termites, so they team is left with a guess. It could be anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 years old, Ross-Ibarra said, dating to a time when the Jurupa Mountains were cooler and wetter, and Palmer's oaks were prevalent. source

My comment: Can you even imagine one organism, that is 13 000 years old?! Even if it's only 5 000, it's still unbelievable! It reminds you of Avatar?


Elixir of youth lurks in blood of conjoined mice

AN UNUSUAL experiment in which the blood supplies of old and young mice were bound together as if they were conjoined twins has boosted hopes of one day giving new life to old bodies.

A team led by Amy Wagers of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, discovered that the blood of the young animals seemed to rejuvenate ageing blood stem cells in the bone marrows of the older mice. It also revitalised so-called "niche" cells in the bone marrow, which nourish, support and stimulate blood stem cells.

Although old mice make more blood stem cells and more niche cells than young mice, many are faulty and don't repair the body as efficiently as the younger equivalents. Old mice also make too many myeloid blood cells, which contribute to inflammation and the development of cancer, and too few lymphoid blood cells, which orchestrate tissue repair.

But when Wagers's team yoked 21-month-old mice to young mice just 2 months old, all these age-related changes were reversed: the mice made fewer myeloid cells and more lymphoid cells. The researchers conclude that as-yet-unidentified components in the young mice's blood passed into the older animals and prompted these youth-giving changes.

A "one-off" exposure to the relevant blood factors won't reverse ageing, it would need to be constant. source

My comment: Wow! That sounds so freaking interesting. Because ok, you can't connect an old person and a baby forever, no one of them will have a quality life. But it implies that if you can substitute the key part of our organisms with new ones, then the whole organism will get younger. Now that's something, right?

Viruses use 'hive intelligence' to focus their attack

A tactic familiar from insect behaviour seems to give viruses the edge in the eternal battle between them and their host – and the remarkable proof can be seen in a video.

The video catches viruses only a few hundred nanometres in size in the act of hopping over cells that are already infected. This allows them to concentrate their energies on previously uninfected cells, accelerating the spread of infection fivefold.

The traditional idea of how viruses spread goes like this. A virus first enters a cell and hijacks its machinery to make its own viral proteins and replicate. Thousands of replicated viruses then spread to neighbouring cells to wreak havoc.

When Smith watched the vaccinia virus infecting monkey liver cells, he thought that it was spreading far too quickly. "It takes 5 to 6 hours for the virus to replicate, but it was spreading from cell to cell within 1 or 2 hours," he says.

Smith reckons that two viral proteins which are presented on the surface of the infected cell effectively tell the virus not to bother reinfecting that cell. When he looked at virus strains lacking each of these proteins, the virus spread at the slower rate that would expected without the "bouncing infection" mechanism. source

My comment: Cool indeed. It seems like cooperation is something much wider spread than expected. Interesting, huh?

The real Avatar: ocean bacteria act as 'superorganism'

Some researchers believe that bacteria in ocean sediments are connected by a network of microbial nanowires. These fine protein filaments could shuttle electrons back and forth, allowing communities of bacteria to act as one super-organism. Now Lars Peter Nielsen of Aarhus University in Denmark and his team have found tantalising evidence to support this controversial theory.

Many marine bacteria generate energy by oxidising the gas hydrogen sulphide, which is common in ocean sediments. To do this, the bugs need access to the oxygen in seawater to carry away the electrons produced as the sulphide is broken down.

Nielsen and his team took samples of bacteria-laced sediment from the sea floor close to Aarhus. In the lab, they first removed and then replaced the oxygen in the seawater above the samples. To their surprise, measurements of hydrogen sulphide revealed that bacteria several centimetres from the surface started breaking down the gas long before the reintroduced oxygen had diffused down to them.

Nielsen believes a network of conductive protein wires between the bacteria makes this possible, allowing the oxidation reaction to happen remotely from the oxygen that sustains it. The wires transport electrons from bacteria in deeper, oxygen-poor sediments to bacteria in oxygen-rich mud near the surface. There, they are offloaded onto the oxygen, completing the reaction. Nielsen calls the process "electrical symbiosis". source

My comment: Absolutely cool! I think we're really just starting to grasp what life is and how complicated it might be on every level.

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