Don’t worry, it’s not like Night of the Replicating Bacteria By Means of Nucleic Fax Transmission or anything – at least not yet. Scientists have discovered that certain bacteria are capable of creating nanowires to communicate with each other in little nano-networks. People have suggested that they look similar to neural networks, and we’ve discovered that most, if not all bacteria, develop these wires.
From the abstract of the publication:
Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 produced electrically conductive pilus-like appendages called bacterial nanowires in direct response to electron-acceptor limitation. Mutants deficient in genes for c-type decaheme cytochromes MtrC and OmcA, and those that lacked a functional Type II secretion pathway displayed nanowires that were poorly conductive. These mutants were also deficient in their ability to reduce hydrous ferric oxide and in their ability to generate current in a microbial fuel cell. Nanowires produced by the oxygenic phototrophic cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803 and the thermophilic, fermentative bacterium Pelotomaculum thermopropionicum reveal that electrically conductive appendages are not exclusive to dissimilatory metal-reducing bacteria and may, in fact, represent a common bacterial strategy for efficient electron transfer and energy distribution.
What can this lead us to discover? Are we looking at something that could lead the way into new ways of understanding and fighting cancer? Perhaps a new approach to fighting HIV and AIDS? Maybe this will lead to making the best strawberry yogurt known to man – who knows. We’re still way early in the learning process with these nanowires, but I have to believe that we’re in for some interesting and exciting news. Hopefully our country will look into this discovery as a means of furthering our understanding of the improvement of human life and not the creation of some kind of super weapon that turns people into piles of cherry Jello.