[The body of this article wound up going missing at some point, leaving the posting empty. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. ~Matt] Microbiologists have discovered what is now known as the world’s largest bacterium, a single-celled organism large enough to be seen with the naked eye,
Medical researchers have saved the life of a seven-year-old boy by growing genetically-modified replacement skin for him. The young German boy suffered from a deadly congenital condition called epidermolysis bullosa, a condition that cases the sufferer’s skin to tear and blister, as if it had been burned. The procedure not only saved his life, but he’s now able to participate in sports with his classmates.
By 2015 the patient had been admitted to the burns unit at Bochum Children’s Hospital in Germany: at that point, two-thirds of his skin was either was either badly damaged or outright missing, and traditional treatments failed to yield results, including skin grafts from a donor.
While the sheer amount of information that can be stored in genetic code is well known — a single gram of DNA is estimated to be able to hold 700 terabytes of information — it turns out that there is yet another layer of information that is mechanically encoded into our genetic material. A new study has found this extra layer of encoded information in our DNA, in that the way the molecule itself is folded acts as yet another layer of information that can be used by the host organism’s cells. As it is, each cell holds strands of DNA that are approximately six feet long, so each strand needs to be folded extremely tightly to fit into the cell’s microscopic nucleus.
“Some of the best evidence for life in space lives right here on Earth: It’s weird, adaptable, and far hardier than we ever thought.” —Alissa Zhu
Panspermia is the ancient idea that the seeds of life exist everywhere in the Universe. Spread like spores by stellar rocks and dust as well as by human-made space debris, they begin the process of evolution wherever they land – just as soon as they encounter the right conditions in which to thrive. If it takes 40,000,000 years or more for that to happen – well, who’s counting, anyway? The microorganisms remain ever ripe and ready for action. But what are the ideal conditions for life?