Consider this: of the trillions upon trillions of cells in the human body, only about 1 in 10 is actually human. The rest belong to microbes, which colonize every inch of you, from the inside of your mouth to the skin between your toes. It’s no wonder, then, that research is increasingly finding that the diversity of these microbes has important effects on health.
The vast majority of microbes — perhaps up to 100 trillion of them — live in our guts. So-called gut bugs help digest our food, assist our immune systems, maintain the health of the intestines, produce vitamins, aid metabolism and extract calories from food (which is why much research has associated gut bugs with obesity).
To better understand the way gut bugs work, a new study has aimed to categorize the lot of them. The study, led by Peer Bork of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, found that the bacteria in our guts falls into one of three distinct ecosystems, or "enterotypes."
"The three gut types can explain why the uptake of medicines and nutrients varies from person to person," Jeroen Raes, a bioinformatician at Vrije University in Brussels and coauthor of the new study, said in a statement. Which means that knowing a person’s enterotype could someday help doctors tailor drug treatments or diets to suit them better.
Or, [Bork] speculated, doctors might be able to use enterotypes to find alternatives to antibiotics, which are becoming increasingly ineffective. Instead of trying to wipe out disease-causing bacteria that have disrupted the ecological balance of the gut, they could try to provide reinforcements for the good bacteria. "You’d try to restore the type you had before," he said.
For the new study, the research team evaluated stool samples from 22 European individuals, extracted the DNA and determined its composition by using DNA analysis and computers. They also compared the results to other published findings from Japanese and American subjects.
Scientists found that each of the three enterotypes was composed of a unique balance of microbe species. The team named each type after its dominant bacteria: Bacteroides, an enterotype that’s known to break down carbohydrates and is better at making vitamins B2, B5, C and H; Prevotella, which degrades mucus and produces more B1 and folic acid; and Ruminococcus, which…
A team of scientists published a paper today in the journal Science which provides some hopeful news.
Specifically, a team of scientists have discovered a new species of oil-eating microbes which thrive in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico:
The biological effects and expected fate of the vast amountof oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon blowoutare unknown due to the depth and magnitude of this event. Here,we report that the dispersed hydrocarbon plume stimulated deep-seaindigenous -proteobacteria that are closely related to knownpetroleum-degraders. Hydrocarbon-degrading genes coincided withthe concentration of various oil contaminants. Changes in hydrocarboncomposition with distance from the source and incubation experimentswith environmental isolates demonstrate faster-than-expectedhydrocarbon biodegradation rates at 5°C.
Even better, the scientists believe that this new species (pronounced "gamma-proteo-bacteria") may not suck up as much oxygen as previously-discovered species:
Based on theseresults, the potential exists for intrinsic bioremediation ofthe oil plume in the deep-water column without substantial oxygendrawdown.
A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe is suddenly flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Their findings are based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2. They found that the dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales.
[Lead author Dr. Terry Hazen, co-director of the Earth Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories], suggested that the bacteria may have adapted over time due to periodic leaks and natural seeps of oil in the Gulf.
Scientists also had been concerned that oil-eating activity by microbes would consume large amounts of oxygen in the water, creating a "dead zone" dangerous to other life. But the new study found that oxygen saturation outside the oil plume was 67-percent while within the plume it was 59-percent.
It’s the ultimate science experiment, really — taking a handful of chemicals, mixing them in just the right combination and presto — life!
And after nearly 15 years of such toiling in his labs in Rockville, Md., J. Craig Venter, co-mapper of the human genome, has done just that. Reporting in the journal Science, he describes a remarkable experiment in which he and the team at his eponymous institute have pieced together the entire genome of a bacterium and then inserted those genetic instructions into another bacterium. The cell booted up, and life — by nearly any definition — was created.
"We’re basically getting new life out of the computer," Venter says. "We started with a genetic code in the computer, wrote the ‘software,’ put it into the cell and transformed it biologically into a new species. We’re still stunned by it as a concept."
With Venter’s breakthrough it’s now possible to splice and snap together genetic material to create a Legoland’s worth of new genetic combinations. Ideally, some of these would have robust industrial purposes, such as manufacturing bacteria that can churn out valuable vaccine components to shorten production times during an epidemic, or co-opting organisms such as algae to pump out new sources of biofuel-based energy.
"Just imagine these cells where all we do is put in a new piece of chemical software and all the characteristics of the cell start changing to become what was dictated by the new software," says Venter. "These are biological transformers."
The paper is the final and most critical step toward realizing what began as scientific curiosity among the scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute back in the early 1990s, when many of the same researchers first succeeded in sequencing the entire genome of a self-replicating organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae. That led to the generation of the complete sequencing of the smallest known genome, at 582,000 base pairs, belonging to another bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium. Such smallness was intriguing because it led Venter to the philosophical question that inspired the current research — what was the minimum genome required to create life in the lab?
For the study just released, the answer turned out to be about 1 million, and the paper describes how he did it. DNA is made up of millions of…
Here’s some weekend reading in advance. Consider throwing away economic models based on the misconception that people behave rationally and start anew with the premise that we are like mindless bacteria. – Ilene
Old-time economics saw investors as rational individuals, all behaving autonomously in a logical fashion, rather like Mr. Spock umbilically attached to Deep Thought. Today not even economists really believe that this is how people actually operate, but figuring out something better is a not insignificant task. Psychologists, however, have long known that what happens in the gaps between people is as important as what happens in the gaps between their ears – so is there something going on in the interactions between investors, which causes market instability?
One possible answer comes from the study of bacteria. Just as we might have suspected all along, stockmarket investor behaviour can be modelled by examining the way a bunch of brainless, single celled and barely animate creatures interested only in food and reproduction disport themselves on a Petri plate. Sometimes analogies are just too sweet.
The critical thing about any economic model is that it arrives at results that look like what we actually see in markets. Mostly the jargon fixated commentators who dominate the media are happy to talk in terms of business cycles when, in reality, the only cycles seen in most investing circles are the ones used by the boys and girls delivering lunchboxes. What we actually get, if we look at stockmarkets and stock prices, is something that looks like the readout we see from a seismograph when an earthquake occurs.
If we start by making a few assumptions about what investors actually do in real life – like, for instance, that they don’t behave rationally and that they tend to copy successful behaviour from people they’re closely connected to – we can rapidly create a model that produces outputs that look very different from those generated by models of people who behave independently and rationally. In fact the output of these models looks a lot like the readout we see from a seismograph when an earthquake occurs.
So it seems that the interactions between investors and how these interactions affect their willingness or otherwise to invest is the critical thing in these models.…
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
Two months ago, we warned that Deutsche Bank "raised the warning flag", when its strategist Jim Reid, referring to the infamous chart showing the correlation of the Fed's balance sheet and the S&P 500 said:
The risk sell-off we've seen in recent weeks frustrates us a little as the chart we've published most this year has pretty much predicted that tougher times would come around July. We've been paying it a lot of attention for over a year now but decided to wait until the autumn before we raised the warning fla...
Quick take: At the end of September the inflation-adjusted S&P 500 index price was 89% above its long-term trend, up from 85% above trend the previous month.
About the only certainty in the stock market is that, over the long haul, over performance turns into under performance and vice versa. Is there a pattern to this movement? Let's apply some simple regression analysis (see footnote below) to the question.
Below is a chart of the S&P Composite stretching back to 1871 based on the real (inflation-adjusted) monthly average of daily closes. I've using a semi-log scale to equalize vertical distances for the same percentage change regardless of the index price range.
The regression trendline drawn through the data clarifies the secular pattern of variance from the trend — those multi-year periods when the marke...
Exceptionally good news from California today: A federal judge ruled CALpers claim of "Sanctity of Pensions" is invalid. Today's ruling went even further than the bankrupt city of Stockton originally sought in court.
Better than a Bitcoin? The Mexican Libertad is a real coin made out of silver or gold whose value is based on the price of silver or gold. It's tangible, like our coins and paper money, but the value is pegged to its weight in previous metal.
The Libertad is a Mexican coin that was first issued in 1981 in .999 fine gold and then in silver in 1982. Beginning in 1991, the Libertades became the only coins in the world that were issued in the convenient sizes of 1/20, 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 ounce—again, in both gold and silver. This made them very practical if they were to be used as currency.
The CBOE Vix Index topped 17.0 and the highest level since early-August on Monday morning amid declines in U.S. equities to start the trading week. The volatility index is off its earlier highs to trade 5.0% higher on the session at 15.65 as of 11:30 am ET. Options volume on the VIX is hovering near 360,000 contracts, or just more than 50% of the average daily reading of around 660,000 contracts. Calls are far more active than put options, as evidenced by the call/put ratio up above 4.2 in morning trading, perhaps as some traders position for volatility to stick around.
Large call spreads traded on the VIX today caught our attention as one big optio...
Yes, the market showed significant weakness last week for the first time in quite a while. In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved triple digits each day. But it was all quite predictable, as I suggested in last week's article, and certainly nothing to worry about. Now the market appears to be poised for a modest technical rebound, and longer term, U.S. equities should be in good shape for a year-end rally. However, I still believe more downside is in order before any new highs are challenged. Moreover, market breadth is important for a sustained bull run, so the challenge for investors will be to put together broader bullish conviction, including the small caps.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, re...
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Ebola is spreading too quickly for Ebola-vaccine makers to conduct typical studies of safety and efficacy on experimental vaccines. Instead, vaccines will be tested for basic safety, but then deployed with protocols devised now in order to test for efficacy essentially on the field. Testing has to be expedited because the situation in West Africa gets worse every day while there are no approved vaccines or other treatments.
The chart below is from a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine showing estimates of the virus's trajectory projecting out to November 1, 2014. If current trends continue...
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Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
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