Friday, May 01, 2009

Discovering Bacteria's Amazing Communication System

Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria "talk" to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves.
Really interesting talk.

Amazing how simple the molecules of the communication system between bacteria are and yet it is just being discovered now.

As over 90% of the cells in and on our body are bacterial, this is the dominant form of communication between cells in our bodies.

There is talk of using this technology as an antibiotic, but this snippet from her interview goes the opposite direction:
So, on the flipside of trying to make antagonists -- molecules that suppress quorum sensing -- my lab spends lots of time trying to make agonists, molecules that make bacteria talk better. If we could beef up the conversation of the bacteria that live in us or on us that are keeping us healthy, it might be even better than developing an anti-quorum sensing molecule.

We want to manipulate these bacterial conversations both positively and negatively. But we don't know yet if it's better to enhance the conversation for mutualists or to suppress it in the case of harmful bacteria. There's a place for each of these technologies, and we're trying to get them both to work. How exactly they're deployed will come later.
Oh, and gotta love the new TED intro with the blazing soundtrack removed.

via TED

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