Instead of sequencing the genome of one organism, why not sequence a drop of sea water, a gram of farm soil or even a sunken whale skeleton? Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg and their US collaborators have done just that, and the result is a new appreciation for the rich diversity of life that exists in the most unlikely places (Science, April 22, 2005).
Bacteria make up the greatest mass of life on earth by far and play a crucial role in the lives of all other organisms. But scientists have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identifying bacteria – 99% of species cannot be grown by standard techniques in the laboratory. The emerging field of “metagenomics” is rapidly giving researchers a view of how diverse microbial life really is. Instead of analyzing the genome of a specific organism, scientists sequence the DNA from environmental samples such as the ocean or soil. For the first time, this gives them a clear picture of the diversity of life in these habitats.
“These studies were simply not possible before,” says Peer Bork, the EMBL scientist responsible for the data analysis in the project. "And future applications for this type of technology are endless, from giving farmers insight into their soil to fighting bacterial contamination in hospitals to characterizing microbes in a patients mouth.”
Trista Dawson | alfa
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Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
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