“And I can’t
but to run my fingers
down your spine
like you are my
book. But I still
cannot read you,
your own language.
Your pages are
tired and torn,
but I want you,
I want it all.”—Michelle K., (via confusingmisery)
A new study supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute is helping astrobiologists understand how methane-oxidizing bacteria survive in deep, cold water around methane seeps on the ocean floor.
Deep below the ocean, where temperatures are low and pressure is high, methane gets locked inside ice crystals called methane hydrates.
The study reveals previously unknown details about the process that two microbes (one bacteria and one archaea) use to ‘eat’ this methane. It all centers around the rare trace metal, tungsten. For the first time, scientists have identified a microbial tungsten enzyme that is used in this cold, dark environment. Cold methane seep environments are much different than the boiling waters of hydrothermal vents where tungsten enzymes have been spotted before.
Typically, microbes use the more common metal molybdenum in cold environments. But for some reason, these microbes also use the scarce metals tungsten and cobalt.
"We don’t know exactly why the organisms seem to be making a protein that binds the rare element tungsten instead of the more commonly used molybdenum," said lead author Jennifer Glass in a recent press release from Georgia Tech.
Life in the Cold
Microbes that live in extremely low temperatures are known as psychrophiles or cryophiles. Psychrophilic microorganisms have been identified all over planet Earth, from the deep sea to high mountain peaks. The cold causes many challenges for life – such as decreases in the fluidity of membranes, reduced enzyme activity, and the formation of damaging ice crystals inside cells.
Psychrophiles need many unique adaptations to survive the cold. Studying these adaptations can help astrobiologists understand how life might survive on frozen worlds in our solar system, such as Mars.
A story of Astrobiology and Climate
Methane hydrates represent a significant store of methane on Earth. Scientists have shown that these crystals can be an important source of energy for deep-sea microbial communities. However, some scientists also believe that methane hydrates could contribute to global warming in the future. As a result of global sea temperature rise, or events like earthquakes, the methane could be released from the sea floor and ultimately end up in our planet’s atmosphere.
The name of the enzyme that is used by the cold seep microbes is called formylmethanofuran dehydrogenase. This enzyme is involved in the last step of converting methane to carbon dioxide… and is essential for methane oxidation.
Diving into the Dark
To study the microbes close up, the research team used the submersible Jason.
Jason plunged deep in to the ocean off the coasts of Oregon and California to explore the methane seeps in this study. Using its robotic arm, the submersible collected sediment samples that scientists later studied in the laboratory.
To see Jason in action, check out this video from the Woods Hole Ocean Institute where the submersible observes the eruption of an underwater volcano.
This video shows a hot hydrothermal system on the seafloor, which much different than the cold methane seep studied by Jennifer Glass and her colleagues. But the video is an example of how robotic explorers on Earth, such as the remotely controlled Jason submersible, can help astrobiologists study some of the most dangerous and difficult-to-reach environments on our planet.
Studies have shown that resveratrol, a natural compound found in colored vegetables, fruits and especially grapes, may minimize the impact of Parkinson’s disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease in those who maintain healthy diets or who regularly take resveratrol supplements. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that resveratrol may also block the effects of the highly addictive drug, methamphetamine.
Dennis Miller, associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts & Science and an investigator with the Bond Life Sciences Center, and researchers in the Center for Translational Neuroscience at MU, study therapies for drug addiction and neurodegenerative disorders. Their research targets treatments for methamphetamine abuse and has focused on the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in drug addiction. Dopamine levels in the brain surge after methamphetamine use; this increase is associated with the motivation to continue using the drug, despite its adverse consequences. However, with repeated methamphetamine use, dopamine neurons may degenerate causing neurological and behavioral impairments, similar to those observed in people with Parkinson’s disease.
“Dopamine is critical to the development of methamphetamine addiction—the transition from using a drug because one likes or enjoys it to using the drug because one craves or compulsively uses it,” Miller said. “Resveratrol has been shown to regulate these dopamine neurons and to be protective in Parkinson’s disease, a disorder where dopamine neurons degenerate; therefore, we sought to determine if resveratrol could affect methamphetamine-induced changes in the brain.”
Using procedures established by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease research, rats received resveratrol once a day for seven days in about the same concentration as a human would receive from a healthy diet. After a week of resveratrol, researchers measured how much dopamine was released by methamphetamine. Researchers found that resveratrol significantly diminished methamphetamine’s ability to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Furthermore, resveratrol diminished methamphetamine’s ability to increase activity in mice, a behavior that models the hyperactivity observed in people that use the stimulant.
“People are encouraged by physicians and dieticians to include resveratrol-containing products in their diet and protection against methamphetamine’s harmful effects may be an added bonus,” Miller said. “Additionally, there are no consistently effective treatments to help people who are dependent on methamphetamine. Our initial research suggests that resveratrol could be included in a treatment regimen for those addicted to methamphetamine and it has potential to decrease the craving and desire for the drug. Resveratrol is found in good, colorful foods, and has few side effects. We all ought to consume resveratrol for good brain health; our research suggests it may also prevent the changes in the brain that occur with the development of drug addiction.”
hi again, TYPE-MOON (and katsu) tags!! i’m just posting as a reminder that i’ll be hosting a small get together/cosplay photoshoot at katsucon 9! tl;dr deets include:
when: FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, 13:00/1PM.
what: are you cosplaying from or a fan of fate/something or another? tsukihime? melty blood? kara no kyoukai? witch on the holy night? WELL BOY HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU, this is the shoot to go to!
where: the main fountains in the gaylord national harbour if they aren’t occupied by another shoot. if so, i have a few backup ideas that are up for discussion. if you don’t have a facebook, send me a message just so i can keep a mental tally of the people who plan on going!! i will bring delicious crestworms snacks for you all to enjoy.