Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 30, 2021

SciTech Talk: Laziness, artificial leaves and bacteria

By MICHAEL YAMAKAWA | April 11, 2013

For the lazy students at Hopkins: For those plagued by constant laziness during school, you are in for a scientific treat. Thanks to recent findings, you may be able to blame your regular indolences on your DNA! A study on mice has shown that laziness can actually be a genetic predisposition. Researchers bred a group of active and lazy mice and monitored the activity of subsequent generations by measuring their running distances. There was a clear difference in running activity between the 10th generation mice that belonged in the active group and those in the lazy group. Through a technique called RNA deep sequencing, the scientists were able to find 36 prospective genes that may be involved in laziness. But even so, try not to let laziness hinder your studies!

 

Artificial leaves heal themselves: Two things may surprise you. First, we have been developing artificial leaves that harness the energy of the sun to produce their own energy, just like real leaves. A new feature was recently added to the leaves that allow them to heal damages incurred during energy production.

When placed in a body of water, the leaves use solar energy to break apart water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as electrolysis. Energy from electrolysis can be channeled to drive other mechanical systems. In fact, a quart of water can provide 100 watts of energy for an entire day. While this is not the most efficient source of energy, artificial leaves may find use in regions where electricity lines and power generating stations are lacking because of cost. Unfortunately, the major drawback of using these leaves is the accumulation of the bacteria that contaminate most of our natural water. The bacteria eventually adhere to the surface of the leaf and prevent energy from being produced.

Researchers have found a way to prevent the surrounding bacteria from accumulating on the leaf’s surface. They tweaked the composition of the energy production catalyst, which is necessary for bacterial adhesion to the surface. The new catalyst is able to break down temporarily so that the bacteria cannot stick to the leaf. Then, the catalyst is able to reform to continue producing energy, while the bacteria slowly reaccumulate. Once bacteria begins to hamper activity, the catalyst will once again break down and heal.

 

Like a moth to a flame, bacteria to photons!: Proteins in our body are typically sensitive to certain signals like macromolecules, or even to photons! Taking advantage of this, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis were able to manipulate bacteria to become sensitive to light. They hope to see whether this can help with insulin secretion and heart rate control by manipulating cells in respective organs in a similar way.

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