Little was known about the development of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract microbiota, until recently, because of difficulties in obtaining sufficient sequence information from enough people or time points. Now, with decreased costs of DNA sequencing and improved bioinformatic tools, we can compare GI tract bacterial communities among individuals, of all ages from infancy to adulthood.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
The study of cooperation and altruism, almost since its inception, has been carried out without reference to the most numerous, diverse and very possibly most cooperative domain of life on the planet: bacteria. This is starting to change, for good reason. Far from being clonal loners, bacteria are highly social creatures capable of astonishingly complex collective behaviour that is mediated, as it is in colonial insects, by chemical communication.
The intestinal microbiota includes a diverse group of functional microorganisms, including candidate probiotics or viable microorganisms that benefit the host. Beneficial effects of probiotics include enhancing intestinal epithelial cell function, protecting against physiologic stress, modulating cytokine secretion profiles, influencing T lymphocyte populations, and enhancing antibody secretion. Probiotics have demonstrated significant potential as therapeutic options for a variety of diseases, but the mechanisms responsible for these effects remain to be fully elucidated.
Biofilm formation constitutes an alternative lifestyle in which microorganisms adopt a multicellular behavior that facilitates and/or prolongs survival in diverse environmental niches. Biofilms form on biotic and abiotic surfaces both in the environment and in the healthcare setting. In hospital wards, the formation of biofilms on vents and medical equipment enables pathogens to persist as reservoirs that can readily spread to patients. Inside the host, biofilms allow pathogens to subvert innate immune defenses and are thus associated with long-term persistence.
Almost fifty years ago, Julius Adler initiated a program of research to gain insights into the basic biochemistry of intelligent behavior by studying the molecular mechanisms that underlie the chemotactic responses of Escherichia coli. All living organisms share elements of a common biochemistry for metabolism, growth and heredity - why not intelligence? Neurobiologists have demonstrated that this is the case for nervous systems in animals ranging from worms to man. Motile unicellular organisms such as E.