Once believed to be the smallest pathogens known, nanobacteria have now proved to be something almost as strange. They do play a role in health—just
not the one originally thought.
Discoveries of purported nanoscale bacteria caused shock and excitement because the organisms seemed too small to live. Claims for the tiniest of
pathogens outpaced scientific validation until the authors and other scientists showed that although the particles appeared alive, in fact they were
merely aberrant crystallizations of minerals and organic molecules. The mineral-protein interactions that produce the nanoparticles nonetheless reveal
details of processes that can protect or undermine human health.
Nanoparticles formed by the binding of proteins to crystallizing mineral ions resemble budding bacterial cells under an electron microscope
Too Tiny for Life?
In 1993 Robert L. Folk, a geologist at the University of Texas at Austin, had been working with rock specimens collected in the Italian hot springs of
Viterbo when he first reported what he called “nannobacteria.” While examining his samples with an electron microscope, Folk found small spheres
that resembled the fossilized remains of bacteria. Like bacteria, these little blobs appeared to have cell walls and filamentous surface projections.
Folk’s spheres were quite small, however, significantly smaller than any known bacteria.
Seems nothing is too small when it comes to nanotechnology, one day they will discover something smaller then that.