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Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike 97

sciencehabit writes "Scientists have long known that a group of viruses called bacteriophages have a knack for infiltrating bacteria and that some begin their attack with a protein spike. But the tip of this spike is so small that no one knew what it was made of or exactly how it worked. Now a team of researchers has found a single iron atom at the head of the spike, a discovery that suggests phages enter bacteria in a different way than surmised (abstract)."
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Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike

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  • by exploder ( 196936 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @12:32AM (#39193809) Homepage

    TFA says specifically that, although scientists expected something like what you describe, the iron atom is in fact forming a sharp point that mechanically penetrates the membrane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @01:22AM (#39194115)

    Not quite, the entire tip (the pink in the image) is essentially sharpened by a single centrally positioned iron atom with the proteins behind it. Think of a bunch of copper threads hanging out at the end of a wire (the wire being the protein), those threads hang loosely and are not really rigid, but add a blob of soldering iron to join them together and they become much more rigid.

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:23AM (#39195321) Homepage

    Diet? Seriously? We have the cleanest, most rigorously tested, most reliable, most nutritious, most easily digested and most available food sources that we've ever had in human history.

    Part of the problem that you basically imagine, is caused by us having TOO GOOD FOOD. Too much of it, too easily available, too cheap, too nutritious (fat / carbohydrate is a nutrient!). We cook everything to rigorous standards (and though that does slightly increase incidences of cancer, it's a much better alternative to eating food raw by orders of magnitude) and check and control them through managed supply lines.

    What's killing us "early" (i.e. earlier than we could potentially live but A LOT LONGER than even our grandparents were ever expected to live) is that we no longer favour longevity over, say, enjoyment. We are making conscious, informed decisions to eat too much of the wrong things, drink too much of the wrong things, exercise too little (and when we do exercise, don't do it anywhere near properly), etc. so that our time here on Earth can be spent doing things that our bodies were never designed to do voluntarily (roller-coasters!) but that we find exciting.

    When farming was established, that left humans with free time. It's with that free time that we did all the myriad things we've achieved - from maths and the arts to social structure in modern Western society. All of the things you know as "going to work" is done because we don't have to have everyone till fields all day long, every day any more. We can put in 8 hours a day MINIMUM of productive work into something that's not required for a human to survive, even to the point that we are rewarded for doing so by being GIVEN the ability to have food brought to our door.

    That free time from pure survival has become our anathema, but also our greatest attribute. What kills us nowadays is choice. We didn't have a lot of it historically, now we do. I can choose to not smoke, not drink, eat well, exercise and thus live - on average - for longer. Or I can choose not to do those things, and yet STILL SURVIVE PAST MATING, still nurture an infant to adulthood, etc.

    Human innovation and ingenuity over eras have given us the ability to choose what we do with almost our entire lives. Use it. And stop worrying about whose going to "fix" the problem of being able to do just what we want with our life.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?