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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2016 December 9 

IC 4628: The Prawn Nebula 

South of Antares, in the tail of the nebula-rich constellation Scorpius, lies emission nebula IC 4628. Nearby hot, massive stars, millions of years young, irradiate the nebula with invisible ultraviolet light, stripping electrons from atoms. The electrons eventually recombine with the atoms to produce the visible nebular glow, dominated by the red emission of hydrogen. At an estimated distance of 6,000 light-years, the region shown is about 250 light-years across, spanning over three full moons on the sky.

The nebula is also cataloged as Gum 56 for Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, but seafood-loving astronomers might know this cosmic cloud as the Prawn Nebula. The tantalizing color image is a new astronomical composition using data from the European Southern Observatory’s wide field OmegaCAM and amateur images made under dark skies on the Canary Island of Tenerife.

Bacteria produce aphrodisiac that sets off protozoan mating swarm

Researchers seeking the evolutionary roots of the animal kingdom have discovered a bacterium, Vibrio fischeri, that acts as an aphrodisiac by releasing an enzyme that sends the choanoflagellate, Salpinogoeca rosetta, one of the closest living relatives of animals, into a full mating frenzy. Choanoflagellates are eukaryotes. Their cells have a membrane-bound nucleus containing their genetic material, and they live free as single cells and in multicellular colonies.

The scientists, Nicole King and Arielle Woznica of the University of California, Berkeley, with collaborators Jon Clardy and J.P. Gerdt at Harvard Medical School in Boston, discovered that within minutes after exposure to a chonodroitin sulfate (CS) lyase produced by V. fischeri, S. rosetta cells aggregate into mass mating swarms, entering into cell and nuclear fusion while duplicating and recombining their genetic material.

This is one of the first demonstrations that bacteria can drive mating in eukaryotes, say the authors who will present their work at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in San Francisco on December 6. They add that this discovery “raises the possibility that environmental bacteria or bacterial symbionts may influence mating in animals as well.”

Research that a chemical signal from a bacterium sends this eukaryote, S. rosetta, into a mating frenzy, a finding that raises the possibility that environment bacteria or bacterial symbionts regulate mating in animals.        Credit: Image courtesy of Arielle Woznica, University of California, Berkeley

IC 4628: The Prawn Nebula

South of Antares, in the tail of the nebula-rich constellation Scorpius, lies emission nebula IC 4628. Nearby hot, massive stars, millions of years young, irradiate the nebula with invisible ultraviolet light, stripping electrons from atoms. The electrons eventually recombine with the atoms to produce the visible nebular glow, dominated by the red emission of hydrogen. At an estimated distance of 6,000 light-years, the region shown is about 250 light-years across, spanning over three full moons on the sky. The nebula is also cataloged as Gum 56 for Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, but seafood-loving astronomers might know this cosmic cloud as the Prawn Nebula. The tantalizing color image is a new astronomical composition using data from the European Southern Observatory’s wide field OmegCAM and amateur images made under dark skies on the Canary Island of Tenerife.


Image Credit & Copyright:Data - ESO/INAF/R. Colombari/E. Recurt, Processing - R. Colombari

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In its day, Train 8, the Rocky Mountain Rocket, was a class operation, not as fast as its Union Pacific and Burlington competitors but a luxurious and comfortable. ride from Denver to Chicago. But by October 6, 1963 its day is just about over. A half hour out of Union Station, the train roars past Sable on its way to rendezvous and recombination with the Colorado Springs section at Limon out in eastern Colorado. Wearing Rock Island’s intermediate maroon and imitation aluminum scheme, E7A 634 heads a consist of baggage car, diner, coach and sleeper. In two years only the coach and baggage car will remain, and in another year the train itself will be gone.

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Kent Rogowski: Love = Love, 2006-2008

Love=Love is a series of collages that were created using pieces of over 60 store bought puzzles. Although puzzle pieces are unique, and can only fit into one place within a puzzle, they are sometimes interchangeable within a brand. These puzzles were cut using the same die, but depict unrelated images. Using only the flowers and skies from each of the puzzles, I created a series of entirely new compositions by recombining the puzzle pieces. These spectacular, fantastical and surreal landscapes sit in direct contrast to the banal and bucolic images of the original puzzles. (artist statement)

Running Women

High definition digital art by South Korean artist Minha Yang features a woman running in slow-motion, distorted beautifully with algorithms:

“Running Women” is the artwork made of numerous motion vectors that is generated by mathematical and physical algorithms. The moving image was taken by high speed camera and transformed into 129,600 vectors. These vectors are capable of controlling 2 million lines containing color characteristic values of rasterized moving images.

These regenerating and recombining processes applied exquisite visual modifications to the original video. The length of original video is 5 minutes long, and it is produced in 4K and 8K resolutions.

More Here

Bacteriophages: Antibiotic Alternative or Just a Phase?

It is now clear that we are rapidly approaching a post-antibiotic era, and the need for an alternative is more vital than ever. The CDC estimates that approximately 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year, and of that 23 000 of them die as a result of the infection [1]. Our antibiotic pipeline is drying up and the development of new antibiotics is both slow and expensive, making antibiotics unappealing investments for pharmaceutical companies. Although alternatives to antibiotics are far from the market, the field is slowly expanding. Amongst the alternatives, bacteriophages (phages) are a potential candidate for both diagnostic and therapeutic medicine.

Quite simply, phages are viruses that infect bacteria. These are the most abundant biological entity on the planet and are thought to outnumber bacteria 10:1. Their sheer abundance has led to a vast diversity that has yet to be exploited by modern medicine. This is in part due to a number of problems with phages that haven’t made them ideal candidates for therapy. This article seeks to look at some of the problems with phages, and what steps are being taken to improve them for application in humans.

Rapid clearance from the host:

Delivery systems for phages have not been thoroughly assessed for systemic phage application. In other words we are still lacking a way of delivering a bacteriophage drug intravenously to ensure that phages have the maximal effect on the patient. Annoyingly, our immune systems are great at rapidly inactivating and removing them from our bodies [2], with animal studies showing that phage can be completely cleared within 24 hours [3]. Early work carried out in germ-free mice in the 70s showed that phages are passively collected in the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS), where they remain viable until inactivated by immune cells [3].

There have been two solutions developed so far to amend this problem [2]. The first was developed in the late 90s by the National Institute of Health in the US, which involved the serial passage of phage through a living organism. It was hypothesised that some phage would have mutations in their coat proteins that would give them increased protection from the natural filtration systems in the body over wild type phage [3] and by selecting for these phage, you could gradually produce a population of long-circulating phage. When applied, these phage would have longer circulation times, and therefore a greater chance of colliding with their target bacteria. Animal studies have shown far better recovery of animals given long-circulating strains of virus over wild type, when presenting symptoms of otherwise fatal bacteraemia [4].

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Figure 1. Diagram showing a few of the possible receptors for Salmonella sp. phage [5]

Additionally, to prevent degradation or inactivation of phages, polymers can be added to the coatings of phages [1]. The polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) has been shown to increase systematic circulation and decrease T-helper cell activation in response to phage. It is likely that a combination of these two methods may improve delivery strategies in the future of phage therapeutics.

Altering host range and preventing resistance:

Unlike antibiotics, phages have incredibly refined, narrow host-ranges. This property is in reality a double edged sword: in many cases, phages are only able to target a few strains of a single species, whereas antibiotics relentlessly target multiple branches of the bacterial phylogenetic tree. Antibiotic treatment can lead to disruption of the host’s own microbiota which can permit the colonisation of nastier and less cooperative microorganisms.

In contrast, phages can target their host whilst leaving the surrounding organisms in relative peace. When a patient presents symptoms of infection, the particular species or strain causing the infection would be unknown. Identifying the culprit before selecting the right phage would take time a patient may not have.

Receptors on the bacterial cell surface are what determine which phage are able to bind to the cell. A wide variety of receptors are used by phage, but many still remain a mystery. To curtail these issues and ensure that as many receptors can be targeted for a particular bacterium, phage cocktails are used [6]. These are mixtures containing a number of different phage strains. In theory, the cocktail should be designed so that the phages together should be able to target all the known clinically relevant strains of a particular species of bacteria.

Creating phage cocktails from natural sources can be laborious [7], however viral DNA provides a platform for genetically engineering phages with desired properties. Improving phage cocktails with modified phages expressing structures that could target a wide variety of receptors on a bacterial cell could ensure that a cocktail could target the maximum number of strains, whilst reducing the selection pressure on a sole receptor. Resistance to the phage cocktail would then also be avoided.

Much of this work looks at genetically engineering phage tail fibres [7, 8]. These ‘spider-leg’ like components regulate the initial binding step between a phage and a target cell. It has been shown by Mahichi et al, 2009 and Ando et al, 2015 that switching tail fibres between phages with different host ranges can confer host-range specificity from one phage to another. Hopefully, modular engineering of phages will push phage technology forwards, offering new strategies for developing phages for therapeutic purposes.

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Figure 2. Diagram showing how the modular shuffling of tail fibres between viral strains can confer host range of parental strain [7].

Preventing the release of cellular toxins

A major health risk of phage, is that like β-lactam antibiotics, they interfere with the bacterial cell wall integrity and ultimately lead to cell lysis. Lysing cells prevents further replication, but also releases all the cell’s content. This may include but not be limited to superantigens and lipopolysaccharides (LPS) [2]. These toxins will trigger the inflammatory response, and in extreme cases cause organ failure and death.

Phages have a simple dual-lysis system consisting of a holin and endolysin. The holin is a pore-forming membrane protein that creates an exit from the cytoplasm for the endolysin. The endolysin is then able to attack the peptidoglycan of the bacterial cell wall, resulting in its rupture. To generate phage incapable of lysing a cell, the dual lysis system simply needs to be inactivated.

To restore killing power to the phage in the absense of the dual lysis system, a bacterial toxin needs to be incorporated into the phage genome. Hagens et al, 2004 has shown that by engineering the filamentous phage M13 to encode a non-native restriction enzyme, antimicrobial activity can be restored through the generation of double stranded breaks in chromosomal DNA. Upon infecting Psuedomonas aeruginosa with this phage, there was a 99% drop in viable cell counts over the time course [9]. Other research has looked into other uses for the non-lytic killing of bacteria, including proteins that interfere with regulatory systems and other bacterial toxins.

Conclusions:

Phage therapy has shown promise in recent years as being a good candidate for either working in synergy with or replacing antibiotics. The appalling lack of human based clinical trials haven’t helped to expose their potential for human use. Although this is the case, a significant amount of work has been done on improving phage therapy in preparation for further studies with human application. The past 15 years have seen an improved outcome for this technology as obstacles with phages are gradually manoeuvred by intelligent reengineering. With hindsight we have now acquired through our experiences with antibiotics, hopefully we will not make the same mistakes with phages as we have done with antibiotics.

1. CDC (2013) Antibiotic resistance threats. US Dep Heal Hum Serv 22–50

2. Lu TK, Koeris MS (2011) The next generation of bacteriophage therapy. Curr Opin Microbiol 14:524–531

3. Carlton RM (1999) Phage therapy: past history and future prospects. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz) 47:267–274

4. Merril CR, Biswas B, Carlton R, Jensen NC, Creed GJ, Zullo S, Adhya S (1996) Long-circulating bacteriophage as antibacterial agents. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 93:3188–3192

5. Chaturongakul S, Ounjai P (2014) Phage host interplay: examples from tailed phages and Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. Front Microbiol 5:1–8

6. Moradpour Z, Ghasemian A (2011) Modified phages: Novel antimicrobial agents to combat infectious diseases. Biotechnol Adv 29:732–738

7. Ando H, Lemire S, Pires DP, Lu TK (2015) Engineering Modular Viral Scaffolds for Targeted Bacterial Population Editing. Cell Syst 1:187–196

8. Mahichi F, Synnott AJ, Yamamichi K, Osada T, Tanji Y (2009) Site-specific recombination of T2 phage using IP008 long tail fiber genes provides a targeted method for expanding host range while retaining lytic activity. FEMS Microbiol Lett 295:211–217

9. Hagens S, Habel A, Ahsen U Von, Gabain A Von (2004) Therapy of Experimental Pseudomonas Infections with a Nonreplicating Genetically Modified Phage Therapy of Experimental Pseudomonas Infections with a Nonreplicating Genetically Modified Phage. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 46:3817–3822

I googled science pick-up lines and I was not disappointed
  • You’re so hot, you denature my proteins. 
  • Do you have 11 protons? ‘Cause you’re Sodium fine!  
  • You make my anoxic sediments want to increase their redox potential. 
  • I’m more attracted to you than F is attracted to an electron. 
  • We fit together like the sticky ends of recombinant DNA. 
  • You’re hotter than a bunsen burner set to full power. 
  • If I were a neurotransmitter, I would be dopamine so I could activate your reward pathway. 
  • According to the second law of thermodynamics, you’re supposed to share your hotness with me. 
  • How about me and you go back to my place and form a covalent bond?
  • I wish I were Adenine because then I could get paired with U.
  • If you were C6, and I were H12, all we would need is the air we breathe to be sweeter than sugar.
  • I want to stick to u like glue-cose.
  • You must be the one for me, since my selectively permeable membrane let you through. 

The Fourier series

Used in Physics, a Fourier series is a way to represent wave-like functions as the sum of simple sine waves. the fourier series breaks down any periodic function into the sum of an infinite set of simple oscillating functions of sines and cosines.

“A Fourier series is an expansion of a periodic function  in terms of an infinite sum of sines and cosines. Fourier series make use of the orthogonality relationships of the sine and cosine functions. The computation and study of Fourier series is known as harmonic analysis and is extremely useful as a way to break up an arbitrary periodic function into a set of simple terms that can be plugged in, solved individually, and then recombined to obtain the solution to the original problem or an approximation to it to whatever accuracy is desired or practical.“ - wolfram alpha

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[simulator]

The Cygnus Wall of Star Formation : Sometimes, stars form in walls – bright walls of interstellar gas. In this vivid skyscape, stars are forming in the W-shaped ridge of emission known as the Cygnus Wall. Part of a larger emission nebula with a distinctive outline popularly called The North America Nebula, the cosmic ridge spans about 20 light-years. Constructed using narrowband data to highlight the telltale reddish glow from ionized hydrogen atoms recombining with electrons, the image mosaic follows an ionization front with fine details of dark, dusty forms in silhouette. Sculpted by energetic radiation from the region’s young, hot, massive stars, the dark shapes inhabiting the view are clouds of cool gas and dust with stars likely forming within. The North America Nebula itself, NGC 7000, is about 1,500 light-years away. via NASA

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