Monday, August 18, 2008

Barrack Amoeba

Did you know that the reason why today you may be craving some salty potato chips is not because you are a glutton, but because the bacteria in your digestive tract are telling you that they need more salt?

I didn't until I read it in the Sept issue of the Atlantic. Upon further investigation, it turns out that these bacteria can be pretty effective communicators. Though probably not quite as effective as Barrack Obama :)

Here is an article in Wired magazine:

The notion that microbes have anything to say to each other is surprisingly new. For more than a century, bacterial cells were regarded as single-minded opportunists, little more than efficient machines for self-replication. Flourishing in plant and animal tissue, in volcanic vents and polar ice, thriving on gasoline additives and radiation, they were supremely adaptive, but their lives seemed, well, boring. The "sole ambition" of a bacterium, wrote geneticist Francois Jacob in 1973, is "to produce two bacteria."

New research suggests, however, that microbial life is much richer: highly social, intricately networked, and teeming with interactions. Bassler and other researchers have determined that bacteria communicate using molecules comparable to pheromones. By tapping into this cell-to-cell network, microbes are able to collectively track changes in their environment, conspire with their own species, build mutually beneficial alliances with other types of bacteria, gain advantages over competitors, and communicate with their hosts - the sort of collective strategizing typically ascribed to bees, ants, and people, not to bacteria.


Blogger The Candy Man said...

I believe it. I'm very in touch with my gut flora. I can feel it when they want oil and meat and things like that.

August 18, 2008 3:13 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

You're in that field, aren't you, Candyman?

August 18, 2008 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Yochanan said...

Interesting. These past two weeks I've been craving chips. I'm a chip snob, they must be kettle-cooked.

August 18, 2008 8:06 PM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

Mine are telling me hold the lactose and threatening release of some really noxious compounds if I ignore them.

August 19, 2008 11:13 AM  

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