Archive for the ‘News Briefs’ Category

The soap and skin paradox: the human skin microbiome may have changed drastically with the use of detergents

May 28, 2014 Leave a comment

This is a pretty interesting concept, essentially that we used to have bacteria capable of metabolizing ammonia and making our BO less offense. The science seems relatively compelling, however I’m still not entirely sold on the idea of foregoing a nice long hot shower for spraying myself twice daily with a suspension of bacteria. Certainly an interesting concept but I’ll stick to soap for the time being.

Like with most probiotic/microbiome products the biggest hurdle will be getting permanent colonization of the environment after the product is not longer being used, or the environment faces a disruption.

Maybe for a backpacking trip where I can experiment away from civilized society. Cool stuff.

Excerpt from “My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment” by By Julia Scott

Whitlock gathered his samples and brought them back to his makeshift home laboratory, where he skimmed off the dirt and grew the bacteria in an ammonia solution (to simulate sweat). The strain that emerged as the hardiest was indeed an ammonia oxidizer: N. eutropha. Here was one way to test his “clean dirt” theory: Whitlock put the bacteria in water and dumped them onto his head and body.

Some skin bacteria species double every 20 minutes; ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are much slower, doubling only every 10 hours. They are delicate creatures, so Whitlock decided to avoid showering to simulate a pre-soap living condition. “I wasn’t sure what would happen,” he said, “but I knew it would be good.”

The bacteria thrived on Whitlock. AO+ was created using bacterial cultures from his skin.

And now the bacteria were on my skin.

I had warned my friends and co-workers about my experiment, and while there were plenty of jokes — someone left a stick of deodorant on my desk; people started referring to me as “Teen Spirit” — when I pressed them to sniff me after a few soap-free days, no one could detect a difference. Aside from my increasingly greasy hair, the real changes were invisible. By the end of the week, Jamas was happy to see test results that showed the N. eutropha had begun to settle in, finding a friendly niche within my biome.



The company website AOBiome

Register for a free webinar on imaging via AAAS

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Techniques and Methods in Live-Cell Imaging: Practical Advice for Microscopy-based Research

Event Date: July 18, 2012 12 noon Eastern, 9 a.m. Pacific, 5 p.m. UK

Sponsored by Leica Microsystems

Imaging technologies are ubiquitous in today’s life science laboratory. From basic microscopy to high throughput modalities, most cell based research benefits from some tried and true methods for imaging. Techniques applied to imaging live cells, either in culture or in vivo, have enabled many biological questions to be addressed that were not possible with fixed samples. Advances in the technologies available, and in the different ways in which they can be applied to analyze live cells, is continuously occurring. This webinar will examine some of the cutting-edge technologies available today, through real-world examples provided by our panel of experts.

During the webinar, the speakers will:

  • Provide specific examples of imaging modalities and how they can be applied in a basic research setting
  • Give practical problem-solving advice on imaging issues encountered
  • Discuss specific methodologies for achieving the best imaging data
  • Answer your questions live during the webinar!

Register here!

Tammy Titan Bloom and UC Davis Botanical Conservatory Picture Show

June 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Seen through the eyes of a yeast biologist, the ‘Tammy” Titan made quite a visual (and odorous) showing this past weekend. In nature the flower blooms for 24hrs or less if pollinated, in the green house it lasted about 36 hours in a spectacular and all to rare showing. Enjoy my take on it below:

Tammy Titan Bloom

BMCDB Editorial: UC Davis’s Own LEED Platinum Sustainable Winery

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

By Gordon Walker

With much thanks to Dr. Roger Boulton of UCD V&E

UC Davis is an innovative and amazing University that excels in many areas. From our roots as a Land Grant Agricultural school to our myriad of nationally ranked departments, graduate groups, and professional schools; no facility stands out as much, or is as representative of the true Davis spirit than the Pilot Winery, Brewery and Food Processing facility at the Robert Mondavi Institute on the south side of campus. The building is the culmination and crowning jewel of the RMI, which was made possible by an incredibly generous donation from the late great Robert G. Mondavi. Since starting at Davis I have had the chance to watch the building go from a construction site, to a fully operational research facility that is not only revolutionizing the science of food, wine, and beer but also pushing the boundaries of sustainable architecture and agriculture. This building has been LEED Platinum certified, meaning that it meets and exceeds the requirements of the US Green Building Council to be a “green building”. What is so amazing is that this is not just a “green” building but also a functional research facility capable of super sustainable food and beverage production. This building can serve as a model not only for wineries of the future, but also as a starting point for any structure or complex.

The winery features 152 mobile modular fermenters with the capability to do real time wireless monitoring of sugar levels, allowing students to actually track and manage their fermentations through their smart phones. These 152 fermenters are also linked to a ventilation system that works to sequester and trap carbon dioxide as calcium carbonate, this system greatly reduces cooling costs in the winery and provides a value added product.   The brewery features a state of the art Clean In Place (CIP) system that allows the entire brewing process to be done “in line” without any chance for contamination. The brewery also features a state of the art computerized brewery management system which allows students to mimmic commercial conditions but in small scale productions. The food processing facility is a large modular set of machines with capabilities to process a wide variety of crops such as tomatoes, peaches, almonds and other California staples. There is even a soon to be opened dairy processing facility that will serve to find practical solutions to problems faced by industry. While I could go on and on about all of the cool features of the Pilot facility, and the soon to be built Jess Jackson Sustainability Building, I will let Dr. Roger Boulton espouse some of the concepts and features that make this project so special.

Watch Dr. Boulton’s incredible power point presentation of the capabilities of the Winery and Jess Jackson Sustainability Building

Dr. Boulton’s Power Point Presentation

Long quote on the importance of the UC Winery Dr. Boulton

First LEED Platinum Winery, one of the highest (the highest?) point 
scores with 60 out of 69. One of 16 buildings at this level in 2011. It 
is energy and water positive as a building, probably the only LEED 
Platinum building to be so. It has gone beyond the LEED points for 
on-site water and energy, so a friend called it "Platinum plus"

The 152 research fermentors make the largest research facility in the 
world and with its wireless density and temperature sensors, the largest 
wireless network in the fermentation world. These fermentors has several 
innovative design features, from carbon capture, water-only heating and 
cooling for temperature control, mobile and suitable for both red and 
white wine fermentations.

The Jess Jackson Sustainable Winery Building is in the detailed design 
stage, and will be completed in Feb 2013. It is a passive utility 
building that will house the membrane systems for the filtration of all 
rainwater and cleaning solutions. It will house the carbon dioxide 
sequestration columns that will make calcium carbonate, the passive 
solar hot water, and the solar powered ice maker for the chilled water. 
It will make hydrogen electrolyticaly from solar power and store it for 
a hydrogen fuel cell for night time energy. These systems will be 
leadership commercial systems that will make the Winery self-sustainable 
in water and energy from on-site sources. This building will have 
insulations values between 60 to 80, compared to 20 in most houses. It 
will be among the most thermally-insulated (and therefore 
energy-efficient) buildings in the world, cooled only by night-time air. 
While the summer air temperatures might reach 100 to 105 in Davis, the 
building will not go above 82 F inside.

The rainwater capture from the three buildings of the Robert Mondavi 
Institute will be held in 6 x 40K gal tanks, like the 4 that are at the 
south side of the Winery complex. It will be filtered into RO water over 
a 6 month period. This will require about 1 or 2 KW for 180 days but is 
a preferred alternative to a filtration that is completed in a week, at 
26 times the KW requirement and sits idle for 51 weeks. The entire 
winery has been planned so that it can operate on storage rather than 
on-demand systems for all water and energy.

The cleaning solutions will be simple inorganic buffers, dilute KOH and 
KHSO4, at pH around 11 and 2.5 respectively. No pathogens grow in either 
solution and hydrogen peroxide is a sterilant at both pHs. These 
solutions can be re-filtered through a nanofilter for 90% recovery of 
both water and salts. After 10 cycles this will require only 1/5th the 
usual water and chemistry. The solutions will be pH 7 when mixed and can 
be used in irrigation without any clay destruction, a problem with 
sodium salts. There will be no phosphate for algal blooms in streams, no 
nitrate for soil nitrification, no organic to contribute to BOD 
(biological oxygen demand) or COD (chemical oxygen demand) requiring 
waste water treatment. The 10% retentate stream which has most of the 
juice or wine organics will go to the biodigestor on campus to become 

All of these facilities have been privately-funded at a time of 
recession and financial problems at the State level and budget cuts at 
UC. It is a stunning example of what is possible without any government 
support and speaks to the wide array of personal support that we are 
fortunate to have.

Dr. Roger Boulton gives a tour and explanation of the UC Davis Winery

Here are some other press articles about the innovations of the UC Davis LEED Platinum Pilot Winery, Brewery and Food Processing Facility

There’s something in the water…

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

UC Davis lead investigators Thomas Harter and Jay R. Lund and their team find increasing nitrate pollution in California’s Drinking water.

By Alex Gulevich

Image from the Monterey Herald

A research report released by the University of California, Davis yesterday found one in ten Californians are at risk to nitrate contamination in their drinking water. Four counties in the Tulare Lake Basin and Monterey County in the Salinas Valley were found to be at risk or exceed the maximum content level set by the California Department of Public Health, affecting 2.6 million people in the region who depend on groundwater as their source for drinking water. Potable water is not to exceed nitrate levels past 45 parts per million (ppm) by California standards, whereas the Environmental Protection Agency advises nitrate levels not to exceed 10 ppm.

The four counties tested are among the top five agricultural producing counties in the nation, where 40% of California’s irrigated crops are grown and over 50% of California’s dairy herds are raised. The majority of nitrate accumulation comes from synthetic fertilizers and animal manure not removed by crop harvest or water run off. The fate of the unused nitrates amended to the soil have seeped into the local aquifers over the past decades and contaminated the primary source of drinking water in these regions. Continuing the current agricultural practices and methods will continue increase and spread of nitrate pollution.

High levels and consistent intake of nitrates adversely affects human health. The human body converts nitrate to nitrite and negatively alters the normal structure of hemoglobin, the protein in our blood we use to transport oxygen throughout our body. Nitrate levels at 50 ppm causes methemoglobinemia, commonly known as “baby blue syndrome”, and puts infants and pregnant women most at risk with the most severe cases causing brain damage due to the lack of oxygen transport. Other studies in rodents implicate nitrite intake increases the risk of tumor formation by reacting with amine compounds to form nitrosamines, a well-documented carcinogen. These studies however were not able to correlate a diet of nitrates and amines leading to increased tumor formation.

Water remediation is possible through proper management and application of fertilizers, however the cost is projected at $56 million annually for short- and long-term solutions combined, with an additional $17 to $34 million to provide safe drinking water in the areas studied. The success of remediation is dependent on water education initiatives, new policies and funding cleanup programs which will likely require a concerted statewide effort as many communities in the affected area are among the Californians with the least economic means and technical capacity. Discussions for public comment will be held on May 23rd by the state water board to be followed by recommendations to the state legislature.

Learn more about the UC Davis report at

Categories: News Briefs