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BGSU biologist trying to crack microscopic code

ix the 'dialects.'

"It's genetic tinker toys," and an area, he adds, in which BGSU doctoral student Kerry Brinkman is "breaking new ground."

Larsen and his graduate assistants do their work with E. coli bacteria, which he calls "the world's best Lego set" and a genetic model for 60 years, on a par with rodents in other research areas. The problem, however, is that laboratory E. coli are the "98-pound weaklings in the real world," not offering barriers as robust as other bacteria maintain outside the lab, he says.

So he has begun studying the type of bacteria that is the leading cause of shellfish poisoning in the United States. It lives, he notes, in two "incredibly different environments"--estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay, and the human intestinal tract. That means the types of proteins in its outer membrane must change to reflect the environment, giving researchers a "thread you can pull," he says.

Living in and adapting to different environments is "part of who they are," but also, Larsen hopes, an avenue to additional funding for his research of the bacteria, which he calls a "little brother" to the organism that causes cholera.
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Source:Bowling Green State University


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