For years, researchers studying phytoplankton abundant in sea water saw what looked like tiny little specks around the cells of interest. The researchers called them “blebs.”
Sallie Chisholm, a biological oceanographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would show the images to colleagues and researchers who joined her laboratory to ask if they knew what they were — or were interested in finding out.
A few years ago, a postdoctoral scientist named Steven Biller took up the challenge. He had a hunch: the blebs looked like vesicles, spherical packets that are known to pinch off from bacterial cells.
Now, a careful examination has revealed that the blebs are indeed vesicles, containing DNA and proteins. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.