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Science Thursday, October 6th 2011 at 5:41 pm

Bacteriologist to Open Time Capsule and Wake Up 100 Year Old Bacteria For Study

Way back in 1897, some doctors at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City decided that it might be a good idea to bury a time capsule. This wasn’t just any time capsule with the typical yet-to-be-nostalgic odds and ends. No, this time capsule was sick; it was full of bacterial spores called Clostridium perfringens.

These little guys still live in your average human intestine, but they don’t do the same kind of damage they used to. Back in the day, they used to be responsible for infections that would often lead to gangrene. The spores are able to hibernate and that is why Dr. Martin Blaser, a bacteriologist at New York University, decided to crack it open and try to nurse the bacteria back to health. For science!

If these bacteria can still be found in human intestines and are generally less harmless than they used to be, you might be wondering why anyone would have any interest. The fact of the matter is that between 1897 and now, there have been a lot of advances in the treatment of bacterial ailments including the discovery of penicillin and the wide-spread use of anti-bacterial soaps, anti-bacterial bandages and anti-bacterial anti-bacterials. While all of these things have helped us beat down bacterial diseases, they have also given bacteria all kinds of opportunities to evolve, so being able to turn back the clock and see what has happened in the past hundred years could really help us figure out where things have gone and where they may be going.

So far, the spores have been put into an environment where they can be expected to thrive if they are still viable. If they are, they should start waking up and reproducing in 24 hours, and a trip to the bacterial past can begin.

(via ABC News)

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