Using Gene Expression to Learn About Nanoparticle Toxicity

What happens to cells when they come into contact with nanoparticles? Researchers in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology are trying to answer this question in a lot of different ways. The effect of exposing organisms to nanoparticles is not as simple as life or death. In one recent study1 we explored the molecular changes that …

How Can You Tell if Bacteria are Alive or Dead?

Think about the last time you cooked meat, wiped down a countertop with Lysol, or used hand sanitizer. You already know that these actions will help to kill bacteria that might make you sick, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could easily tell whether your efforts had been effective—that is, how many of the …

How Do Nanoparticles Stick to Bacteria? Or, How Are Cell Membranes Like Velcro?

Scientists have known for some time that nanomaterials can stick to cell membranes and, in some cases, damage the membrane in the process. But what exactly do nanomaterials stick to on the cell membrane? A particular type of molecule called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) may provide a key to answering this question.1 Many of us take notice …

How do different kinds of bacteria interact with different kinds of nanoparticles?

This post is part of our ongoing series of public-friendly summaries describing research articles that have been published by members of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. Vivian Feng, a chemistry professor at Augsburg College, is the first author of this paper, which was a collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students as well as other CSN …

Bright Nanoparticles + Glowing Bacteria = Beautiful, Useful Pictures

One major type of output from university research labs is the publication of scientific results in scientific journals. When we write these papers, our target audience is not the general public; rather, we are writing for experts in our area to tell them what we've accomplished so that they can build on our work in …

Our Hidden Bacterial Friends Keep Us All Alive – Shewanella oneidensis

While the word “bacteria” conjures images of human illness and death for many people, the vast majority of bacteria in the world allow for the healthy functioning of humans and ecosystems. The way they do this ranges from breaking down food in animals’ digestive systems (yes, even ours) to cycling life-giving chemical elements from things …

The Cautionary Tale of DDT – Biomagnification, Bioaccumulation, and Research Motivation

We perform many different kinds of experiments in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology—some that you might expect (like making new kinds of nanoparticles), and some that you might not (like feeding nanoparticles to tiny organisms such as bacteria and water fleas).  The second kind of experiment may seem a little strange to you: why is …

Scientists work to prevent a nano-crisis

This post is written by Anna Bisaro and originally appeared on Medill Reports, a project of Northwestern University graduate journalism students. Sustainability. The magic word that rings with the promises of a better world and cost savings. People want to create clean energy, recycle wastes and eat locally-grown food, all in the quest for sustainability. …