New NOVA knocks me out – and oh, yeah, check out quorum sensing

Did not realize that NOVA, the PBS science show, had introduced a new version. It’s called NOVA ScienceNOW, and this first episode I saw was eye-popping.

Did you know that a woman named Bonnie Bassler discovered some years ago that certain bacteria tend to cluster together and then when–and only when–they get enough of each other together, they do something extraordinary. In the case of the bacteria she first studied, they become luminescent–they glow in the dark.

Other scientists poo-poohed her. Oh, well, they said, those aren’t important bacteria. They don’t have anything to do with human disease. Well, she kept on working and experimenting and studying, and eventually she found that indeed, many types of bacteria do this–Bassler calls it quorum sensing–and that this community-bonding is done by direct communication. And that bacteria clearly communicate with each other across species.

The implications are limitless for finding new methods of treating diseases like cancer that have everything to do with cell growth. And this incredible stuff most likely made the news at some point, but I’m grateful that NOVA ScienceNOW brought it round again so I could see it tonight.