September 19, 2013 |
The most high-fidelity search for methane on Mars has turned up none, a result that significantly reduces the chances of finding microbial life on the Red Planet. The highly awaited results of tests conducted by NASA's Curiosity rover do not completely rule out the possibility that something is alive on Mars, researchers said. But the findings, published online Thursday by the journal Science, strongly suggest that Mars is barren. “We're very confident in this result,” said study leader Christopher R. Webster, who oversees the development of planetary science instruments at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
September 16, 2013 |
Thoughtless use of antibiotic medications continues to promote the growth of drug-resistant superbugs in the U.S., threatening doctors' ability to combat infections, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 114-page publication , which was written for the general public, offered the first comprehensive picture of drug resistance in the U.S., said CDC's director, Dr. Thomas Frieden. He said he hoped the information would encourage doctors, patients and public health officials to take action to protect what he called a "precious national resource.
August 22, 2013 |
Nothing gets our attention like pain. But pain is more than the body's miniature cattle prod to get us to heed a wound, rest a swollen ankle, or stop eating chili peppers. Pain may be the language between animals and microbes. Far from being a product of an inflamed immune system, aggravated nerves far from the spine and brain appear to communicate with invading bacteria and regulate the fight against them, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.
August 1, 2013 |
A team of researchers in Woods Hole, Mass., has discovered a novel ecological habitat flourishing in one of the fastest growing segments of civilization's toxic waste stream: plastic marine debris. Welcome to the Plastisphere, a biological wilderness on microbial reefs of polyethylene and polypropylene in the open ocean teeming with single-celled animals, fungi and bacteria, many of them newly discovered. Some may be pathogens hitching rides on floating junk. The effects of plastic debris on fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals that ingest it are well documented.
July 4, 2013 |
The meek shall inherit the Earth, and that may not be a good thing, if the meek are cyanobacteria. It turns out that the ancient microbes lowest on Earth's food chain are sensitive sorts. Familiar strains of these organisms that provide "biological services" essential to complex life are about to lose the competition for a viable niche in a world turned warmer and more carbon-rich, according to two new studies. And the strains poised to dominate in the desert and ocean remain mysterious and largely unstudied.
June 26, 2013 |
It's well known that obesity is linked to diabetes, heart troubles and other health woes, but studies have also linked carrying too much weight to an increased risk of some kinds of cancer, including esophageal, colorectal, pancreatic and other cancers. Now researchers may have figured out why being overweight is linked to a person's chances of developing liver cancer: obesity seems to cause key changes in microbes that live in the gut, stimulating bacteria there to secrete chemicals that damage DNA and lead to the development of tumors.