For my creative project, I decided to bake cupcakes and (attempt to) decorate them to show the different shapes of bacteria. I included 9 different shapes: [left to right] diplo- (in pairs), coccobacilli (oval), vibrio (curved rod), strepto- (in chains), streptobacilli, spirilla (coil), staphylo (clusters), mycobacteria, and spirochete (spiral). I also included a quadrant streak, plate streak, a virus, and a smiley face for fun. This was a fun way to show just how many different kinds of microbes there are in only bacteria!
Meet the Obscure Microbe that Influences Climate, Ocean Ecosystems, and Perhaps Even Evolution
Elizabeth Pennisi, 3/9/17, Science Magazine
Summary: Prochlorococcus is a cyanobacterium present in the ocean. It is the smallest and most abundant photosynthesizing bacteria in the ocean and is responsible for 5% of global photosynthesis. It thrives at a depth of 200 meters and has an estimated 80,000 genes (4 times the number that humans have). Penny Chisholm and two colleagues are working to show that Prochlorococcus is a central actor in evolution. They also believe that it helped to fuel to explosion of early life in oceans and the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.
Connections: This article talks all about how a scientist by the name of Penny Chisholm is so in love with this microbe and has devoted her life to showing the world how big of an influence it has. This to me, shows the amount of dedication it takes for one to make their work known in the science world, especially when it comes to microbes because they are so abundant and diverse. Over time, she finally showed the world her work and let Prochlorococcus show it’s worth.
Critical Analysis: I love this article because it kind of motivates me in a way. Chisholm never gave up her love for this microbe and now people everywhere are starting to appreciate the work it has done on our atmosphere. I also love that it was written in terms that everyone can understand. The author even showed that it takes 220 million Volkswagen Beetles to equal the mass of Prochlorococcus in the oceans today. This was great because it really helped me imagine just how much of it is actually out there.
In a Dragon’s Blood, Scientists Discover a Potential Antibiotic
Donald G. McNeil Jr., 4/17/17, New York Times
Summary: Scientists from George Mason University have found a substance in from the blood of a Komodo dragon that may be extremely useful with fighting germs. They recreated the substance in the lab and called it DRGN-1. Tests were done on mice with infected skin wounds for this study. This study showed the DRGN-1 could get through the membranes of bacteria, dissolve the biofilms that connect bacteria, and that it could speed up the process of wound healing.
Connections: Komodo dragons can be extremely dangerous because they kill with shock-inducing venom. However, in that same body lies a “rich source’ of potential antibiotics in their blood. This article explains that the chemical can break through the membranes of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, which shows just how powerful it could be if used correctly.
Critical Analysis: It’s amazing to see that something so potentially dangerous can also be so helpful when it comes to medicine. I found this article to be a little too short and simple because it gave no evidence to how the chemical can help infections.
Question: How does the DRGN-1 chemical fight infections and does it have any other effect on the body after the infection has healed?
Scientists Turn Food Poisoning Microbe into Powerful Cancer Fighter
Michael Price, 2/8/17, Science Magazine
Summary: Scientists have found a way to modify the bacteria Salmonella in order to trigger an immune response in the body to fight off cancer cells. They tested this by implanting human cancer cells in mice and the bacteria actually shrunk the tumors and prevented the cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body. Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacteria that causes food poisoning. It was genetically modified to secrete the protein known as FlaB. In one experiment, 20 mice were injected with human colon cancer cells and then injected with the bacteria. Three days later, the mice had cleared all of the bacteria from their body except for their colons, which were crawling with Salmonella. After 120 days, the tumors were gone in 11 of the 20 mice.
Connections: This article shows just how important microbes are in our every day life. With all that we have learned about them, we can do so much to manipulate and use them to our advantage.
Critical Analysis: Everything about the fight against cancer fascinates me. It is such a strong disease to have and so much has been done to try and fight it. This article is really interesting to me because it seems like it could really work. However, this study was only done on mice and I really want to know how it would actually affect humans. The author didn’t cover exactly how this bacteria was fighting the cancer cells so I wish they would’ve gone into more depth about that part of it. Overall, this article was easy to read and did a great job at conveying information to the reader.
Question: I would like to know how the Salmonella bacteria could be used to fight cancer cells, but how it doesn’t affect the normal cells of the body? Is it possible for a bacteria to interpret which one is which?
For my Painting with Microbes assignment, I made 3 different pictures. I painted a cherry on the MAC plate but the end result was very dark and could hardly be seen. I also painted a flower onto an EMB plate, but that one did not grow very well and there was contamination present. My favorite painting was this one of a bumble bee that I did on the TSA plate. I used three different types of bacteria to produce a darker color (the stripes and head), a lighter color (wings), and the yellow body. It pretty much turned out how I expected, except I hoped that the stripes would turn out a darker because there was nothing that would produce a black color.
Summary: Simon Lax began his seminar by stating that our relation to our microbial sources are changing significantly due to the fact that we are becoming an indoor species. According to him, humans are spending about 90% of their lives indoors! This is causing such a change because indoor environments are created to limit the growth of microbial life. Simon told us about the Home Microbiome Study that was done in order to have a better understanding of the relationship between our own skin and microbes found in our indoor environments. This study seemed to have found certain microbes that could be almost used as a “fingerprint’ to help track the way in which humans transport microbes. This study led to a follow up study where Simon collected samples from personal belonging such as phones in order to see a relationship between the microbes observed. Lastly, was a study in a hospital to track the pathway of microbes from the beginning of the day to the end.
Reflection: I found this seminar to be pretty difficult to follow along with as it was pretty fast paced. However, I really enjoyed the concepts of the presentation. Since starting this Microbiology course, I have become more aware and curious about the microbes on and around me in my everyday life, so I find this topic to be extremely interesting. I would love to experience something similar to the hospital study because so many people come in and out of those doors and there must be such a diverse population of microbes. It would be so fascinating to see how microbes work their way from the doors and throughout the building.
Hi! My name is Brianna Kriesel and I am sophomore working towards my Biology degree with a concentration in Physiology. I am also hoping to complete a minor in English or Creative Writing. After UAF, I hope to attend Medical School in order to become an Obstetrician. I’m really excited for this class and I can’t wait to get to know some of you a little better! Here’s a picture of my beloved dogs: Bubba, Lucy, and Maggie. They are my life.