005 Microbes, the little guys_Bacillus thuringiensis and its role in agricultural biotechnology

With the Earth's population continuing to increase there is an increasing demand for food. But how can food production become more efficient? One answer to that question is transgenic crops. Transgenic crops are crops that contain DNA from two different organisms. Usually the genome of the target organism is supplemented with a gene or multiple genes from another organism.

One  transgenic crop that has been developed to reduce crop losses due the pest such as the European Corn Borer and the Cotton Bollworm is Bt crops. Bt crops such as Bt Corn and Bt Cotton, contain the cry gene/s from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This gene codes for a Crystal protein that once ingested by insects, breaks down in their hindgut and lyses the cells lining their gut. This cellular breakdown of the digestive system of the insect by the Bt toxin kills the insect and therefore reduces crop losses due to the action of pest species.

As with all things genetically modified there are both ethical and scientific issues to contend with. Ethical issues aside, the real problem of Bt crops is natural resistance in the pest population and the potential effects on non-target organsism.

Join us as we explore the world of Bt crops, which continues to help increase crop yields by controlling pest population.

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004 Microbes, the little guys_Henrietta Lacks and the origins of the HeLa cell line

"Who was Henrietta Lacks?" and "Where do HeLa cells come from?" These are a few of the questions answered in this podcast, which explores the origins of the very first immortal cell line. The HeLa cells originate from the an epidermoid carcinoma from the cervix from Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot helps us explore the everything HeLa, as these cells have been continously grown in culture since there first isolation in 1951. They were used in the investigations into the polio virus as well as the development of the polio vaccine by Scherer et. al. 1953.

Now ubiquitously found in universities and research labs worldwide, the HeLa cell line continues to provide insights into the mechanisms of cancer and the wider study of human genetics and molecular biology.  HeLa cells can be seen as the most important discovery for human medical microbiology. Join us as we pay homage to Henrietta Lacks and her contribution to the continued development of modern medicine.

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001 Microbes, the little guys intro_Taxonomic classification systems

This is the first official podcast from thescientist, in the series; "Microbes, the little guys". In this episode we discuss the structure and information to expect from this podcast and also the taxonomic classification of life. The classification systems mentioned include the dichotomous Plant / Animal Linneas system, the 5 kingdom system by Whittaker and the widely adopted 3 Domain system by Carl Woese and George Fox.

The three domain system proposed by Woese et al. had its basis in molecular biology rather than purely visual or structural characteristics and compares the sequence of the ribosome to create and identify evolutionary relationships as well as act as a bar code for the identification of organisms.

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