This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday January 25, 2016

A round-up of what we read last week in the media's coverage of biofilms and microbiomes research.

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On Tuesday, January 19, The Kavli Foundation hosted a Google+ Hangout about the potential of nature's microbiomes and how we can tap into it. In this webcast titled ‘A Microbial Manifesto’ Janet Jansson, Rob Knight and Jeff Miller discuss what it will take to harness the invisible microbial world. Watch these leading scientists behind the "Unified Microbiome Initiative" answer a series of tantalizing questions on the recent developments in scientific tools and technologies that have enabled for a better understanding of microbial communities.

Gut microbes are well known to contribute to health and disease, but what has been less clear is how the host controls gut microbes. A study published in Cell Host & Microbe now reveals that mice and humans produce small molecules (microRNAs) from their GI tract, which are shed in feces, to regulate the composition of gut microbes and thereby protect against intestinal diseases such as colitis. In this new study, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that microRNAs produced by intestinal cells in mice and humans enter bacteria, regulate the activity of bacterial genes, and shape the composition of gut microbes. Mice that were deficient in gut microRNAs showed an altered gut microbiome and were more susceptible to colitis. But transplantation of gut microRNAs from normal mice into the microRNA-deficient mice both restored the normal composition of gut microbes and protected against colon damage. The paper was highlighted by Science Codex, EurekAlert, Scientific American, New Scientist and many other media sources.

Spanish telecommunications Engineer, Aitor Urrutia-Azcona has designed new humidity sensors with anti-bacterial properties that combat the proliferation of micro-organisms in environments where the humidity level is very high, such as hospitals and industrial premises for foodstuffs or pharmaceutical products. Biofilm formations on surfaces lead to material deteriorations, which often affect the devices, including its performance and service lifetime. Using a combination of nanotechnology and latest developments in fiber optic, the new humidity sensors have improved performance and longer service lifetimes. These sensors could be integrated into a wide variety of sectors, such as health centres and hospitals to monitor human respiration, among other applications. The study was published in the journal Nanoscale Research Letters and was extensively picked up by several outlets including EurekAlert, News-Medical, NewsX, TechTimes and many others.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading this week. Please comment below.

Richa Dandona

Partnerships and Operations Manager, Nature Partner Journals, Nature Research