communication skills in prokaryotes

I was reading the February 2007 issue of BioTechniques--doesn't everyone?--and came across something interesting in a profile of a professor at Princeton University.

It seems that Dr Bonnie Bassler is very interested in communications issues. From my varied relationships with the fairer sex this seems to be a constant interest with women. However Dr Bassler has worked a twist into this issue. Her work is purely with bacteria. Yes, bacteria. Bacteria and communication issues. Germs can talk?! Who knew!

It all started when Dr Bassler went to a lecture which had as its core how certain deep sea bacteria use bioluminescence to signal, a topic now called quorum sensing. I still can't get over bacteria talking. Anyway, Dr Bassler quickly signed up to work in this area of research and has since found that bacteria do communicate in a large and diverse number of ways--the method of communication depending on the environment that the bacteria has adapted to. (or for any IDers out there: depending on the environment that God devinely and instantly devised the bacteria for)

According to Dr Bassler this is a very rewarding area of reseach due to its simplicity.You see, bacteria only have a few signals to each other so this makes for a model that is easy to experiment with. Human women, on the other hand, have a bizarre and often contradictory slew of signals that totally bewilder men. Ooops. I might have gotten off track there. LOL In any case, using bacteria as a simple model of communication allows scientists like Dr Bassler to try out theories with a minimum of unrelated variables interfering with experiment design.

A more practical aspect is that methods that interfere with the bacterial signaling could be used as medicines, or at least to enhance existing meds. For example, if you had a way to signal a bunch of germs to stop growing for a while it would be a huge boon to health care. Or maybe inject bacteria that you can control to go after tumor cells. Lots of possibilities to this.

While people don't listen very well, let's hope that bacteria do--at least when we're the ones doing the talking.

That picture up above is from an exhibit at Montana State University–Bozeman
School of Art where they use bioluminescent bacteria to make artwork. It's very odd and impressive. Give the gallery a look if you're interested. And that means you, Tiff!

Comments

Bob-kat said…
Women don't have any problem communicating Utenzi - it's the men! :-)

That is a very interesting post. I can see how this research would have a load of applications!
Oreo said…
What'd chu say Dave????? I got the wemin part but that was bout it!
srp said…
I would have to agree that the men have the hardest time communicating.

Those of us who believe the Creation can also see that there is room for evolution. Bacteria evolve, become resistant to antibiotics, react to the environment, just as butterflies and all animals. But this evolution is within the species. Bacteria will never evolve into a frog or a dog or man.
Claire said…
That's really interesting Dave, but I'm still trying to digest that bacteria communicate...what next?!
Janejill said…
Hello Utenzi - very interesting ; I wonder if the precision of their communication depends on how vital it is; i.e. do they need to move, or change or develop in some way. That could apply to humans as well...
kenju said…
Those photos are fascinating, Dave. They remind me of some I saw when I was in school, of minerals and other things under the electron microscope. I was so struck by the artistic qualities, and they are seen here too.
Yaeli said…
Fascinating... yet bamboozling...
I'm confused now.
SassyAssy said…
And the male species never exhibit such confusing signals?! Your confused...go eat some more beef.
utenzi said…
Why, yes. We males are a direct and plainspoken crew. Thank you for noticing.
This is fascinating and it gives one hope that many things could be cured or stopped by understanding more about how Bacteria communicate. It is also probably true that if men listened better, more could be accomplished because women don't seem to have a problem understanding each other...(lol) Mars & Venus and all that, Dave....

Great pictures, too! Thanks for this very enlughtening post, including your feeling of being stumped by women and their communication skills!

Oh and BTW, I'll be posting some wonderful pictures of your favorite plant that rather scares you...! I jope this gives you more insite into the beauty of this plant.
Diane Mandy said…
I listened to an interview with Dr. Bassler on NPR recently. Interesting stuff!

Thought you'd appreciate the significance of this... Today I saw my first bee of the season. God--it's starting already.
Deana said…
Your posts are so hard for me sometimes! I can barely read them. lol. My husband is lucky in that as a woman I've been surrounded my male best friends and buddies forever so I quit communicating like a girl. Way too often women just expect a man to be able to read their minds. To just understand their needs. Ridiculous. I am not one of those girls........I communicate much more like a guy. When I don't I catch myself and don't get mad at him for being a man and ignoring me after I've rambled for about an hour.

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