Art Project: “Extreme Environments”

My name is Kjersten Williams. For my art project, I decided to go with mixed media. I constructed the microbes’ background environments out of paper and colored pencil, and made the microbes themselves out of modeling clay, giving the project a bit of visual depth. For my subject, I decided to focus on a specific group of microbes: the temperature extremophiles. I wanted to showcase the variety of different morphologies and habitats of these microbes (through the relatively accurate depiction of the microbes and their respective environments), while also making a statement against the general belief that all microbes are “bad’ (hence, the added shaky eyes to make them cuter and more personable). These microbes live in environments which would be deemed uninhabitable to the majority of life forms on Earth. Due to their resilience and adaptability, they represent the type of organism which astrobiologists may be most likely to find on other planets!

There are a couple mesophiles included for the sake of contrast. The microbes represented are: Chloroflexus aurantiacus (the red snake-like thermophilic bacterium represented against the background of a hot spring area), Methanopyrus kandleri (the blue, rod-shaped hyperthermophilic archaea set against the background of hydrothermal vents), Deinococcus radiodurans (a mesophilic bacteria represented by the green tetrad set against the forest background), Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans (a mesophilic bacterium represented by the purple, rod-shaped microbe with the pink flagellum), Psychrobacter arcticus (the blue diploid psychrophilic coccobacillus bacterium with pink spots, which is set against the aquatic background underneath the ice layers), and Planococcus halocryophilus (the blue-green diploid cocci bacterium set against the polar background).


“Grazing” Amoeba Killing Biofilm-Protected Bacteria

Date Published: April 18, 2017
Author: David Tenenbaum

A research study finds that a particular group of amoeba called the dictyostelids are capable of penetrating biofilms in order to eat the microbes underneath. The researchers observed how these organisms deconstructed the biofilms of certain pathogenic bacteria. In the article they also mused about how they can utilize these findings to advance medical science.

This article talked about biofilm and how these amoeba group are able to get through these protective mesh made by bacteria.

Critical Analysis:
This article had ideas that really resonated with me, especially the part where they talked about figuring out how these amoeba species are deconstructing the biofilms of these bacteria, and how we could use that for our own bodies as some sort of pathogenic microbe hunter. If we could find out what kind of processes penetrate biofilms, then we can target pathogenic bacteria in our bodies and safely remove it in our system. But then again, that’s the best case scenario.

Would it be risky for us to mimic how this particular amoeba group approach bacteria and use it in our bodies as some sort of an immune function? What would be the worst case scenario? Would it also affect the good bacteria that helps us live a healthy daily life?

A2: Microbes In The News

Better than nature: Artificial biofilm increases energy production in microbial fuel cells

12 April 2017

Scientists Prof. Dr. Ruth Freitag and Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner have developed an artificial biofilm that can perform better and is more stable than the natural biofilms that collect in a fuel cell. The scientists felt this was a positive development because unlike natural microbes, they could control their artificial biofilm better. We’ve talked about biofilms in lecture as a convenient way for microbes to collect, grow in population size, and obtain resources without moving. Further, we discussed how microbes choose their environment, like in an oil spill. However, in a situation like the oil spill, we saw that microbes that aggregate naturally were not always the most efficient at taking care of the spill.

I found it interesting that scientists are producing artificial microbes. It made me curious if it would have been a better idea to try and obtain a greater amount of the natural microbes for the job than to make something synthetic. I feel there could be a lot of unforeseen issues that could arise such as, if this new development is safe for the environment. They did not go into great detail and I think they could have done a better job of explaining what this new development entails.

My question goes with my earlier thinking: What possible outcomes (negative or positive) could come from this development?

Sinks as a Reservoir for Bacteria

Title: Turning the water on in a sink can launch pipe-climbing superbugs

Source:  Ars Technica
More Information: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2017. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.03327-16
Date:  3/2/2017, 3:10 PM
Photo:  Pseudomonas aeruginosa  taken from CDC website


Summary: Around 2004 and 2006 there were issues in a Canadian hospital when patients began to die from outbreaks of  Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Now, researchers  have described how this outbreak occurred. Bacteria can reside in the P-trap of sink piping and slowly climb up with the use of biofilms. When running water hits the bacteria it scatters on surfaces around the sink. This article also describes how researchers ran their experiments and articulates some of the findings.

Connections:  During the cell structure and function unit in class we discussed biofilms. This article describes an instance of when bacteria are using biofilms. Bacteria attach to the surface of pipes and then happily climb the pipes (at rate of 2.5 cm/day) while having nutrients poured down the sink to them.  More specifically, the lethal incident in the Canadian hospital was a result of a biofilm-forming bacteria we talked about in class-  (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) – which is involved with cystic fibrosis.

Critical analysis:  I had never considered that you could find bacteria thriving in sinks and piping underneath sinks . It makes sense though, especially when you consider that people don’t just wash water down sinks but also dump drinks and other fluids that may act as bacterial nutrients. Also, it was a  bit alarming that the study this article was based off of found that bacteria could splatter up to .75 meters away from the sink and onto touchable surfaces. (And that is in addition to the bacteria moving down the piping to head to other sinks if design allowed for it) I found it a bit ironic since the purpose behind P-traps are to trap debris and to prevent  water in the pipes from becoming gaseous and smelling badly. However, while solving those issues, P-traps have created a whole other problem.

I think the article was concise and easy to read for a public audience. The author of this article actually has a  Ph.D. in microbiology and so I trust her interpretation of the science. She also writes in a way that conveyed experimental methods and results easily and understandably. There was no jargon or any writing that would confuse the reader.


What could be done to prevent microbial growth in piping and from sinks becoming a public health issue?

Why Dragon fly Wings Kill Bacteria

American Council on Science and Health : 2/06/2017

Summary: This article looks at the reasons why dragonfly wings are so good at killing microbes. The study has brought into question why micro pili are effective against bacteria. Previous thinking was that it acted like a bed of nails of equal height and the membrane was punctured on the nails. New research shows that pili heights are non consistent and that their membranes are actually torn open by their own extracellular proteins  getting caught and tearing the membrane.  The researchers hope to apply this knowledge to create more efficient antimicrobial surfaces.

Connections: This relates to our discussion of biofilms. this technology demonstrates a way of inhibiting biofilms from forming by taking advantage of their own tendencies and extracellular structure.

Analysis: i find the story very interesting. The implications of creating a surface immune to biofilms that can be created relatively cheaply with 3d printing could revolutionize any number of fields. The study does need to use with a variety of bacteria still to prove its effectiveness but the work done with E. coli seems to very well done with a control and repeated examples of the tearing:

Question: Would this have the same effect on eukaryotic cells or would the increased scale counteract the effect of the micropili