Bacteria, I Want You Back: Five Friendly Microscopic Creatures In Your Body
Compiled here is a list of five microbes in our bodies to whom we owe our gratitude.
What's the Big Idea?
We think of bacteria as irredeemably evil microscopic creatures; their sole purpose being to make us sick. Thus, we have taken up such practices as incessantly washing our hands and blasting our bodies with antibiotics at the sound of the slightest cough.
It doesn't have to be this way, however. These microbes, or at least some of them, deserve another shot at our hearts. Over the past few years scientists have found that of all the bacteria in our bodies, the ones that generally do harm are by far the minority. In fact, many bacteria that are most of the time beneficial have been discovered.
Consistent with this picture was the one painted by the Human Microbiome Project. This initiative was announced complete last week and its findings were released to the public. Compiled here is a list of five microbes in our bodies to whom we owe our gratitude. Though there are virulent and benign strains of several of these, these types are rare to come across. It should be noted, also, that even the beneficial strains of these bacteria, if present in individuals with particularly weak immune systems and/or parts of the body where they are not meant to be, can cause disease. It is not often at all that this is the case, however.
1. Bifidobacterium Longum This microorganism is found in large amounts in the intestines of infants. They release several acids which make an environment that is toxic to many virulent bacteria. In this way, they serve to protect humans. Read more here.
2. Bacteroides Thetaiotamicron Humans cannot on their own digest many plant food molecules. Present in the GI tract, the bacteria Bacteroides thetaiotamicron break down such molecules. This allows humans to digest the components. Without these microbes vegetarians would be in trouble. Read more here.
3. Lactobacillus Johnsonii This bacterium is of critical importance to humans, especially infants. It is found in the gut and makes the process of milk digestion smoother. Read more here.
4. Escherichia Coli Escherichia coli bacteria synthesize the vital vitamin K in humans' guts. Abundance of this vitamin allows humans' blood clotting mechanisms to function properly. This vitamin is also needed for other purposes. Read more here.
5. Viridans Streptococci These microbes thrive in the throat. Though humans are not born with them, as infants cultures find a way of getting in. They grow there so well that they leave little space for other, more harmful bacteria to colonize. Read more here.
What's the Significance?
Perhaps we should put the soap and the Z-pack down and stop killing these magnificent creatures, out of respect but more so out of concern for our own health. Antibiotics like these attack bacteria that are on average harmful but also ones that are usually helpful. Maybe another solution, one that allows for the destruction of the bad and not the good, is in order.
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Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.