Misfit News 2-21-13
If you think fish are quiet pets, don’t own a plainfin midshipman.
This week’s first story has this headline:
‘Singing’ Fish Hums to Attract Mates
This story, posted on LiveScience.com on Tuesday, explores a type of fish that can be found in waters from Santa Montica, California all the way up to Alaska. It gets its name “midshipman” from the prey-attracting photophores on its body that resemble the buttons on a naval officer’s uniform.
Here’s the rest of the story by LiveScience Staff Writer Tanya Lewis:
It sounds like the drone of a guitar amplifier, but it’s actually the amorous serenade of a fish called the plainfin midshipman. During the summer, this sonorous sea creature hums to attract females to its rocky seafloor love nest.
“It sounds like a drone of bees or maybe even the chanting of monks,” neurobiologist Andrew Bass, who has studied these fish extensively, told LiveScience.
The hum is so loud that for years, houseboat owners in Sausalito, Calif., complained it was disrupting their sleep and drowning out conversations. Theories circulated about what was making the strange noise — sewage pumps? Military experiments? Submarines? Ultimately, scientists discovered that the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) was causing all the buzz.
To make their humming sounds, the fish use the gas-filled bladder that keeps them buoyant. When the fish contracts muscles on the sides of the bladder, the muscles vibrate against the wall of the bladder, which in turn vibrates the surrounding water. The result is something that sounds like a monotone didgeridoo.
And it gets even weirder: There are actually two kinds of male midshipman. There are the “singing males” that hum to attract the ladies. And then there are “sneaker males” that don’t sing, but instead sneak into the singers’ nests and fertilize the eggs a female has laid there. (Like many fish, midshipman reproduce by fertilizing eggs outside the body.)
The fish don’t just make noise to entice a female. The males make growling and grunting sounds too, to defend their nests from intruding males.
The bizarre humming of the midshipman isn’t really that unusual, according to Bass. “Sound production is extremely widespread among fishes,” Bass said. Reports of fish vocalizing date back to the time of Aristotle, he added.
These fish also show seasonal changes in hearing — both males and females hear better during the summer. This makes them good models for studying human hearing loss, scientists say.
And here’s a video of the sounds. Weird!
Sticking to the scientific side of things, I found this gem of a headline on NPR.org:
‘Robogut’ Makes Synthetic Poop To Treat Stubborn Infections
“RePOOPulate” is the name of this stool substitute.
You know what, though? I don’t think I can explain it. So, without further ado, the article by Michaeleen Doucleff:
Last summer, we learned about fake poop made from soybeans that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation used to test high-tech commodes at their toilet fair.
Now, we’ve come across another type of artificial poop, and it’s being created to help people with really bad cases of diarrhea.
This synthetic stool isn’t made of soybeans, but instead, it’s a mixture containing 33 different types of bacteria. And, oh yeah, doctors create the stuff in something called the “Robogut” — a mechanical device that mimics the conditions in your colon.
Doctors in Ontario, Canada, developed the synthetic stool — which they call RePOOPulate — to treat people sick with infections fromClostridium difficile, a bacterium that can cause serious, persistent bouts of diarrhea. The germ can take hold after people are treated with antibiotics for other infections.
The Robogut, developed at the University of Guelph, can grow up a whole the bacteria that thrive in your gut. Many of these bugs won’t grow in any other laboratory in the world.
The researchers report in the current issue of Microbiome that the treatment with synthetic poop successfully cured two people of their infections.
Normal bacteria in your gut help protect against toxic pathogens, saysDr. Elaine Petrof, an infectious disease specialist at Kingston General Hospital, who led the study. “When you’re sick and take antibiotics, you knock out the innocent bystanders, too.” That messes up the ecosystem in your gut.
Most people can repopulate the good bacteria naturally, but in some cases, C. difficile, which is resistant to many antibiotics, takes over. The bacteria make a nasty toxin that can make people get really sick.
Taking more antibiotics usually wipes out C. difficile. But in some cases, Petrof says, the pathogen just keeps coming back. “It becomes a vicious cycle because the antibiotics keep killing the good bacteria.”
That’s where the RePOOPulate could be helpful. The idea is to load up the patient’s GI tract with a bunch of the good bacteria so they push C. difficile out of the way.
To do that, Petrof and her team took a stool sample from a healthy, 40-year-old woman, who hadn’t taken antibiotics in 10 years.
Microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe, who invented the Robogut, grew the bacteria from her stool and then sequenced the bugs’ DNA to figure which species were present.
A stool substitute, called RePOOPulate, aims to replace dangerous pathogens in the gut with a healthy community of bacteria.
Courtesy of Matthew Manor/KGH
Using her clinical experience, Petrof selected 33 bacteria that she knew were healthy. The result was an opaque mixture of bacteria, which Allen-Vercoe describes as a “vanilla milkshake.” Really.
Petrof then put the bacterial cocktail into the intestines of the two patients during colonoscopies.
The new bacteria slowly grew in the patients’ guts and pushed out the toxicC. difficile. Both patients eventually stopped having diarrhea, and the transplanted bacteria were still present six months after the procedure.
Petrof refers to the bacteria elixir as a probiotic, but she says it’s far from the kind you pick up at Whole Foods.
“Most probiotics are lab-extracted strains of bacteria, which are used in the dairy industry,” she says. They aren’t built to live in your gut, so they tend to just pass right through you after you take them, she says.
In contrast, the bacteria in the RePOOPulate mixture have evolved to thrive in our gastrointestinal tracts. “That’s where they normally live,” she says.
Plus, the mixture is a whole community of bacteria that live together in an ecosystem. “When you take antibiotics, it’s kind of like stripping out the Amazon forest in your gut,” she tells Shots. “We’re putting the whole ecosystem back in.”
Gastroenterologist Darrell Pardi, who wasn’t involved in the study, says the treatments is just one of several recentexamples of doctors trying to develop a cleaner version of a fecal transplant. In that procedure, doctors take a stool sample from a healthy person and transplant it into the GI tract of a patient with C. difficile.
Fecal transplants aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and there are only a few reports out there showing how effective they are. “But they’ve gotten quite common in the past few years,” says Pardi, who’s studies experimental treatments for C. difficile at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
“More and more practitioners in the U.S. are doing fecal transplants, in both large and small centers,” he tells Shots. “Our center has done 16 since September. Our success rate is similar to what’s been reported, about 80 to 95 percent.”
But fecal transplants have a few problems, Pardi says. Each transplant requires a unique donor, so it’s expensive. And, doctors really don’t know which bacteria are getting moved between people.
A pure culture of bacteria, like RePOOPulate, could be safer and more reproducible, Pardi says.
“A fecal transplant is like taking a sledgehammer to kill C. difficile: It puts millions of bacteria into the patient,” Pardi tells Shots. “There’s tremendous enthusiasm now for finding what the key components of that hammer are.”
What will they come up with next?
Posted on February 20, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged articles, fish, news, odd news, offbeat news, plainfin midshipman, poop, science, singing fish, stool substitute, strange news. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.