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.…
While pricing right on the When Issued screws, or 0.540%, tied for the lowest high yield since October 2014, today's $26 billion auction of 2 Year paper was nothing to write home about. From a low Bid to Cover, which at 3.30 was down from March's 3.457%, and the lowest of 2015, to a slide in the Indirect bid to only 38.1%, also the lowest for 2015, to the highest Dealer take down of 2015, with commercial banks left with 47.8% of the short-end issue, there was not much demand for the paper which pays a 0.50% cash coupon and which matures on April 30, 2017.
Still, the lack of a tail is what the algos were looking at, and they got it. As a result the bid following the auction across the curve which...
Last week, stocks cycled bullish yet again. In fact, the S&P 500, NYSE Composite, and NASDAQ each closed at record highs as investors positioned for the heart of earnings season in the wake of strong reports from some of the Tech giants. Notably, Utilities stocks got some renewed traction as yield-starved investors returned to the sector. Although our trend-following sector rotation model remains bullish, strong overhead technical resistance and neutral rankings in our SectorCast quant model indicate that caution is in order, and this might not be the moment for a major upside breakout, particularly given the expected softness in earnings reports.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly funda...
Apple Inc.’s IPhone sales in China may have exceeded the U.S. for the first time in the latest quarter, thanks to brisk demand during the country’s New Year celebrations.
Apple will probably show on Monday that earnings jumped by more than 20 percent when it reports results for the second fiscal quarter, which ended in March. While Apple doesn’t break out shipments by country, the company may have sold 18 million to 20 million iPhones in greater China during the period, while U.S. deliveries were about 14 million to 15 million, according to Creative Strategies LLC.
Apple closed last week at an all-time weekly closing high at (1) in the chart above. Apple recently broke above its 4-year rising channel, came back to test old resistance and pushed higher, setting this new record high.
In November of last year, when Apple was trading below $110 per share, the Power of the Pattern shared that Apple’s upside target stood at $150.(See post here)
The big economic number this week will be the Q1 Advance Estimate for GDP on Wednesday at 8:30 AM ET.
What do economists see in their collective crystal ball for Q1 of 2015? Let's take a look at the GDP forecasts from the latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists conducted earlier this month.
Here's a snapshot of the full array of WSJ opinions about Q1 GDP with highlighted values for the median (middle), mean (average) and mode (most frequent). In the latest forecast, the median and mean were quite close. The mode (ten of 62 forecasts) was a tad lower at 1.2%, and the second most frequent value, held by eight respondents, was bit higher 1.5%. In essence, 35% of the economists' forecasts fell within a narrow 0.3% range.
As the visualization above illustrates, despite the cluster in the midd...
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Here's an interesting argument by Felix Salmon, although I think he is taking two correct observations and mistakenly attributing a cause-and-effect relationship to them: Bitcoin is going nowhere because women are not involved.
More likely, in my opinion, women are not involved in bitcoin because bitcoin is going nowhere (and they know it). Or maybe, simply, bitcoin is going nowhere and women are not involved.
Nathaniel Popper’s new book, Digital Gold, is as close as you can get to being the definitive account of the history of Bitcoin. As its subtitle proclaims, the book tells the story of the “misfits” (the first generation of hacker-l...
Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
In my last post (Part 1 of this article), I looked at alternative ETFs that could be used as hedges against the corrections that we have seen during that long 2 year bull run. Looking at the results, it seems that for short (less than a month) corrections, a VIX ETF like VXX could actually be a viable candidate to hedge or speculate on the way down. Another alternative ETF was TMF, a long Treasuries ETF which banks on the fact that when markets go down, money tends to pack into treasuries viewed as safe instruments. In some cases, TMF even outperformed the usual hedging instruments like leveraged ETFs. There could of course be other factors at play since some of 2014 corrections were related to geopolitical events which are certain...
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
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.
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