As conventional antibiotics continue to lose effectiveness against evolving pathogens, scientists are keen to employ the bacteria-killing techniques perfected by bacteriophages (phages), the viruses that infect bacteria. One major challenge is the difficulty of studying individual phage proteins and determining precisely how the virus wields these tools to kill their host bacteria. A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley, and Texas A&M University worked together on a high-throughput genetic screen to identify which part of the bacteria the phages were targeting.
Biosciences Area FY23 LDRD Projects
The projects of 22 Biosciences Area scientists and engineers received funding through the FY23 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.
How to Edit the Genes of Nature’s Master Manipulators
A team led by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna and her longtime collaborator Jill Banfield has developed a clever tool to edit the genomes of bacteria-infecting viruses called bacteriophages using a rare form of CRISPR. The ability to easily engineer custom-designed phages—which has long eluded the research community—could help researchers control microbiomes without antibiotics or harsh chemicals, and treat dangerous drug-resistant infections. A paper describing the work was recently published in Nature Microbiology.
Bioscientists to Receive DOE Funding for Biomanufacturing and Microbiome Research
Biosciences researchers are among the recipients of four new DOE awards. Two awards will focus on reducing carbon emissions while producing bioenergy. The other two are aimed at understanding the role of microbiomes in the biogeochemical cycling of elements like carbon.
Exploring the Genetics and Mechanisms of ‘Bacterial Homing Missiles’
A team at the Berkeley Lab explored the genetic basis and physical mechanisms of tailocins, bizarre protein nanomachines produced by bacteria to kill their rivals under stressful conditions. These topics, and tailocins as a whole, have spurred the interest of microbiome researchers as well as those interested in pursuing alternatives to traditional antibiotics.
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