Viable synthetic DNA
[Scientists] produced in a test tube a totally artificial copy of a type of DNA virus.… The particular type of viral DNA (called Phi X174) the researchers made is an extremely simple molecule of only five or six genes. Their achievement, however, lays the foundation for eventual synthesis of more complex DNAs. — Science News, December 30, 1967Update
Viruses in bats may have mixed and matched genes to create the virus that gave rise to the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003, a new study suggests. And it could happen again. All of the ingredients needed to create a new SARS virus are found among viruses currently infecting horseshoe bats, researchers report November 30 in PLOS Pathogens.
The viruses “are poised to cause future outbreaks,”...
Fungi may affect gut health in unexpected ways, new research suggests.
High-fat diets may alter relationships between bacteria and fungi in mice’s intestines, contributing to obesity, researchers report October 11 in mSphere. In independent work, researchers report that a fungus teams up with two types of bacteria to fuel gut inflammation in people with Crohn’s disease. That work was...
KC Huang, 38PhysicistStanford University10/04/2017 - 13:50 Microbiology, Biophysics
Physicists often ponder small things, but probably not the ones on Kerwyn Casey “KC” Huang’s mind. He wants to know what it’s like to be a bacterium.
“My motivating questions are about understanding the physical challenges bacterial cells face,” he says. Bacteria are the dominant life-forms on Earth. They affect the health of plants and...
Lena Pernas, 30ParasitologistUniversity of Padova10/04/2017 - 13:47 Microbiology, Microbes
Lena Pernas’ love of parasites began in childhood, when she was plagued with many virtual infections. One of her favorite pastimes as a 9-year-old was playing The Amazon Trail, an educational computer game set near the South American river. One of the dangers players could encounter was malaria, “and I got malaria a lot,” Pernas says. This...
A single genetic mutation made the Zika virus far more dangerous by enhancing its ability to kill nerve cells in developing brains, a new study suggests.
The small change — which tweaks just one amino acid in a protein that helps Zika exit cells — may cause microcephaly, researchers report September 28 in Science. The mutation arose around May 2013, shortly before a Zika outbreak in...
The Science Life
Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers on the market are intentionally brewed with yeast scavenged from nature, rather than the carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast used in most commercial beers.
Matthew Bochman is in on the action. By day, he’s a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington who studies how cells keep their DNA intact. On the side, he can be found...
News in Brief
Some bacteria may shield tumor cells against a common chemotherapy drug.
Certain types of bacteria make an enzyme that inactivates the drug gemcitabine, researchers report in the Sept. 15 Science. Gemcitabine is used to treat patients with pancreatic, lung, breast and bladder cancers.
Bacteria that produce the enzyme cytidine deaminase converted the drug to an inactive form. That...
Science & the Public
Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers on the market are intentionally brewed to be sour and funky. One of the hottest new ingredients in the beverages: Yeast scavenged from nature.
Unlike today’s usual brewing, which typically relies on carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast and rejects outsider microbes, some brewers are returning to beer’s roots. Those beginnings...
Letters to the Editor
Locked up08/23/2017 - 16:00 Astronomy, Microbiology, Physics
Simulations suggest that heat from an infant Earth, the sun and the moon could have vaporized the moon’s metals into a thick atmosphere, Lisa Grossman reported in “Metallic air may have swaddled moon” (SN: 8/5/17, p. 7). One way to test the idea would be to look for a ring of extra sodium in rocks around the moon’s twilight zone, where sodium snow would have accumulated. This...