Sep18

New sequence of naked mole rat genome aids cancer resistance research
Director of Science at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) Federica Di Palma co-authors new genetic study on the naked mole rat’s resistance to cancer, identifying key genomic variations that may have contributed to the evolution of this extraordinary species.
The naked mole rat is an exceptionally long-lived and cancer-resistant rodent native to East Africa. The new study presents a higher-quality assembly of the rodent’s genetic structure to previous sequences of the species genome, enabling the research community to benefit from this key data.
The study, led by international scientists from TGAC, University of Liverpool, Broad Institute, Uppsala University and Harvard Medical School, re-analysed the naked mole rat genome using the improved assembly that revealed further candidate genes of potential relevance to adaptive changes in the context of ageing and cancer.
With a life span of over thirty years, not only is the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) the longest-lived rodent, but it is also extremely resistant to neoplasia (tumours), and therefore is an ideal model for research on longevity, cancer and disease resistance.
Copyright: John Trainor - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/
Read more: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/health/2014/140903-pr-sequence-mole-rat-aids-cancer-research.aspx

 

New sequence of naked mole rat genome aids cancer resistance research

Director of Science at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) Federica Di Palma co-authors new genetic study on the naked mole rat’s resistance to cancer, identifying key genomic variations that may have contributed to the evolution of this extraordinary species.

The naked mole rat is an exceptionally long-lived and cancer-resistant rodent native to East Africa. The new study presents a higher-quality assembly of the rodent’s genetic structure to previous sequences of the species genome, enabling the research community to benefit from this key data.

The study, led by international scientists from TGAC, University of Liverpool, Broad Institute, Uppsala University and Harvard Medical School, re-analysed the naked mole rat genome using the improved assembly that revealed further candidate genes of potential relevance to adaptive changes in the context of ageing and cancer.

With a life span of over thirty years, not only is the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) the longest-lived rodent, but it is also extremely resistant to neoplasia (tumours), and therefore is an ideal model for research on longevity, cancer and disease resistance.

Copyright: John Trainor - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/

Read more: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/health/2014/140903-pr-sequence-mole-rat-aids-cancer-research.aspx

 

Sep10

Scientists visualise the scars left by heart attacks

These images show (A) a healthy heart and (B) a heart damaged due to a lack of oxygen during a heart attack.

As you can see, the microstructure of a heart changes after a heart attack (B). The scar (outlined area), is formed because of the tissue death caused by a local lack of oxygen, and the consistency of muscle cell arrangement compared to the healthy heart (A) is lost. This will affect how much blood the heart can pump into the body within one heartbeat.

The images taken by BBSRC-funded researchers at the British Heart Foundation Experimental Magnetic Resonance Unit (BMRU), University of Oxford, were generated by a special type of imaging technique that measures the motion and movement of water molecules in the heart tissue.

This new technology, that Dr Jurgen Schneider and his team have developed, could eventually allow doctors to be able to look at a 3D+T representation of the patient’s heart, zoom-in on any relevant detail (a coronary vessel blockage or a damaged part of tissue), assess treatment options, and predict outcomes for the specific individual before the patient even enters the operating theatre. Much of this vision is still far ahead. Nonetheless, this research is vital to its development.

Image credit: BHF Experimental MR Unit, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford.

Read more: http://www.rdm.ox.ac.uk/principal-investigators/researcher/jurgen-schneider

Read more on how BBSRC-funded scientists are trying to mend broken hearts: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/health/2014/140214-n-helping-mend-broken-hearts.aspx

Sep08

Scientists go fishing for proteins
Professor Neil Hunter FRS and Dr Matt Johnson, together with a BBSRC-funded team from the University of Sheffield have made a breakthrough in our understanding of how plants turn sunlight into food, by mapping the organisation of a crucial protein complex known as cytochrome b6f. This has been done in the photosynthetic membrane of the plant cell chloroplast.
The team have developed a new imaging technique known as affinity mapping atomic force microscopy to pinpoint the location of cytochrome b6f relative to the chlorophyll-protein complex photosystem II. Locating a protein in a membrane is ordinarily a bit tricky, as they all often look quite similar. But Matt and his team have used this novel technique that involves attaching a molecule known as plastocyanin (blue) to the AFM tip (grey) and using this as ‘bait’ to ‘fish’ for the cytochrome b6f(fuschia), to which it binds with near 100% accuracy. This allows the topographic features of the membrane that are revealed in AFM image to be assigned to particular proteins based on whether they bind to the molecular bait.
Understanding the organisation of the molecular machinery of photosynthesis takes us a step closer to unravelling nature’s staggeringly successful blueprint for solar energy capture and conversion. Such fundamental research into photosynthesis is a first step towards harnessing the power of the sun to meet future energy needs. 
This new technique could be used to locate other proteins in any biological membrane including in, plants, bacteria, and even humans, information that could be crucial to understanding how defective proteins can cause disease.
Image credit: University of Sheffield
Read more: 
http://www.plantcell.org/content/early/2014/07/28/tpc.114.130161.full.pdf+html
See more great science images: http://tmblr.co/ZtJ7bq1KpKUnI

Scientists go fishing for proteins

Professor Neil Hunter FRS and Dr Matt Johnson, together with a BBSRC-funded team from the University of Sheffield have made a breakthrough in our understanding of how plants turn sunlight into food, by mapping the organisation of a crucial protein complex known as cytochrome b6f. This has been done in the photosynthetic membrane of the plant cell chloroplast.

The team have developed a new imaging technique known as affinity mapping atomic force microscopy to pinpoint the location of cytochrome b6f relative to the chlorophyll-protein complex photosystem II. Locating a protein in a membrane is ordinarily a bit tricky, as they all often look quite similar. But Matt and his team have used this novel technique that involves attaching a molecule known as plastocyanin (blue) to the AFM tip (grey) and using this as ‘bait’ to ‘fish’ for the cytochrome b6f(fuschia), to which it binds with near 100% accuracy. This allows the topographic features of the membrane that are revealed in AFM image to be assigned to particular proteins based on whether they bind to the molecular bait.

Understanding the organisation of the molecular machinery of photosynthesis takes us a step closer to unravelling nature’s staggeringly successful blueprint for solar energy capture and conversion. Such fundamental research into photosynthesis is a first step towards harnessing the power of the sun to meet future energy needs.

This new technique could be used to locate other proteins in any biological membrane including in, plants, bacteria, and even humans, information that could be crucial to understanding how defective proteins can cause disease.

Image credit: University of Sheffield

Read more: 

http://www.plantcell.org/content/early/2014/07/28/tpc.114.130161.full.pdf+html

See more great science images: http://tmblr.co/ZtJ7bq1KpKUnI

Sep04

The secrets of cell development

Amazingly, all the cells in our body have exactly the same DNA and yet still manage to be completely different and carry out different jobs, from pumping our hearts to fighting off infections!

We have epigenetic marks to thank for this. Epigenetic marks (special molecules that attach at certain areas of the DNA) control how a DNA sequence is read and provide a mechanism for cell memory, without affecting the DNA sequence itself. These marks allow cells to interpret the uniform genetic information in different ways, by switching different genes on or off. The marks also help cells to remember which genes should be on and off and they can also pass this information onto other cells during cell division.

Without these epigenetic mechanisms cells would lose their identity, and to some extent that is what happens in diseases like cancer.

BBSRC-funded Professor Wolf Reik and Dr Fatima Santos, from the University Of Cambridge and The Babraham Institute, are studying stem cells, like the cells above, to find out more about epigenetic information: research which is providing us with new approaches to improve the potential of stem cells for regenerative medicine.

Image credits: Dr Fatima Santos

Read more: http://www.epigenesys.eu/en/

Read more: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/people-skills-training/2014/140612-f-gb-bioscience-pioneers-wolf-reik.aspx

Sep01

Flower forces that bait our bees

Have you ever felt the hairs on your arm stand on end when you brush past an old television screen? Or stuck a balloon to the wall after rubbing it on your jumper? If so you’ve experienced part of the world of static electricity, but you probably haven’t felt the electrical pull of a bee’s wings or the charged electric advertisement of a flower. These tiny electric fields are sensed by bees and used to make important decisions in their lives, like which flowers to visit and which to ignore, and can even help them communicate with each-other inside their hive. 

In the top image you can see yellow electrically charged paint being sprayed on a Geranium flower to reveal the fine structure of their electric fields. 

In the bottom images you can see a computer simulation of the electric field arising from the interaction between a bumblebee and a petunia flower.

Make sure you get to the Great British Bioscience Festival in London in November to find out more about how electricity helps bees pollinate flowers.

To find out more, visit: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/society/exhibitions/gb-bioscience-festival/electrostatic-interactions-flowers-bees.aspx

Top images copyright: Dominic Clarke/Daniel Robert/Heather Whitney 

Bottom image copyright: Dominic Clarke/Julian Harris 

Aug28

Plants that fight cancer
This picture shows Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) alongside the structure of vinblastine, an alkaloid natural product.
This pretty plant makes hundreds of alkaloid natural products which are a rich resource for a wide range of applications, including the development of pharmaceuticals, insecticides and biomaterials.
Natural products from this plant have already given us some very important cancer-fighting medicines, for instance vinblastine is one of the compounds used in chemo-therapy.
Read more about BBSRC-funded scientists who are studying this plant and developing new industrial applications for the natural products.
Credit: Mr Andrew Davis

Plants that fight cancer

This picture shows Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) alongside the structure of vinblastine, an alkaloid natural product.

This pretty plant makes hundreds of alkaloid natural products which are a rich resource for a wide range of applications, including the development of pharmaceuticals, insecticides and biomaterials.

Natural products from this plant have already given us some very important cancer-fighting medicines, for instance vinblastine is one of the compounds used in chemo-therapy.

Read more about BBSRC-funded scientists who are studying this plant and developing new industrial applications for the natural products.

Credit: Mr Andrew Davis

Aug21

Scientists from Rothamsted Research have fitted tiny radar transponders to individual bees to track their flight paths and investigate the effects that exposure to pesticides and diseases has on their ability to navigate. The research had pride of place in an excellent feature on animal tracking in Engineering & Technology Magazine this month.
The research also featured on BBC TV last year: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2013/130805-n-bbsrc-bee-science-on-bbc-horizon.aspx

 

Scientists from Rothamsted Research have fitted tiny radar transponders to individual bees to track their flight paths and investigate the effects that exposure to pesticides and diseases has on their ability to navigate. The research had pride of place in an excellent feature on animal tracking in Engineering & Technology Magazine this month.

The research also featured on BBC TV last year: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2013/130805-n-bbsrc-bee-science-on-bbc-horizon.aspx

 

Aug18

GM spuds could beat blight
This image by BBSRC-funded Dr Eleanor Gilroy shows two leaves. The leaf on the right is from a genetically modified (GM) potato plant and the leaf on the left is from a non-genetically modified potato plant.
On the left you can see four white circles where Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen that causes a disease called blight,has grown and produced spores. Blight is a serious disease that was a major cause of the Irish potato famine.
The leaf on the right has not been infected by P.infestans. It contains the resistance(R) gene R3a, which acts to prevent P. infestans from growing.
GM crops, such as this modified potato plant, have the potential to help society overcome the challenges we face in a world which needs to produce more food, using less land, water and energy. Other inputs and by-products of agriculture must also be reduced, such as pesticide use, waste and adverse environmental impacts - a challenge where GM may help find solutions.
GM also gives us the potential to cut out the slow process of breeding from wild relatives. This is a laborious agricultural process which by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome the resistant gene.
Read more about the latest research on potato blight at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2014/140205-pr-secrets-potato-blight-evolution.aspx
And more at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2014/140217-pr-gm-spuds-beat-blight.aspx

GM spuds could beat blight

This image by BBSRC-funded Dr Eleanor Gilroy shows two leaves. The leaf on the right is from a genetically modified (GM) potato plant and the leaf on the left is from a non-genetically modified potato plant.

On the left you can see four white circles where Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen that causes a disease called blight,has grown and produced spores. Blight is a serious disease that was a major cause of the Irish potato famine.

The leaf on the right has not been infected by P.infestans. It contains the resistance(R) gene R3a, which acts to prevent P. infestans from growing.

GM crops, such as this modified potato plant, have the potential to help society overcome the challenges we face in a world which needs to produce more food, using less land, water and energy. Other inputs and by-products of agriculture must also be reduced, such as pesticide use, waste and adverse environmental impacts - a challenge where GM may help find solutions.

GM also gives us the potential to cut out the slow process of breeding from wild relatives. This is a laborious agricultural process which by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome the resistant gene.

Read more about the latest research on potato blight at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2014/140205-pr-secrets-potato-blight-evolution.aspx

And more at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2014/140217-pr-gm-spuds-beat-blight.aspx

Aug07

Stunning entry from Ben Gazur for BBSRC’s 2009 photo comp
The image represents the insect flight paths underpinning the science of pollination and highlights the importance of research in this area for future food security.

Enter your #ImageswithImpact to BBSRC’s latest competition at http://bbsrc2014.picturk.com/, seeking the best photos that represent how life sciences are changing the world, in areas like: food, farming, bioenergy, biotech, industry and health. 

Stunning entry from Ben Gazur for BBSRC’s 2009 photo comp

The image represents the insect flight paths underpinning the science of pollination and highlights the importance of research in this area for future food security.

Enter your #ImageswithImpact to BBSRC’s latest competition at http://bbsrc2014.picturk.com/, seeking the best photos that represent how life sciences are changing the world, in areas like: food, farming, bioenergy, biotech, industry and health. 

Aug05

Counter-shading may keep caterpillars out of trouble

Scientists from the Universities of St Andrews and Bristol are studying caterpillars to see how counter-shading, where an animal’s upper body is darker than its lower, provides camouflage.

Because light comes mostly from above, more light usually reaches the top of a body. If an animal is uniformly coloured it therefore appears lighter on top and darker below. Counter-shading is thought to cancel out this effect, making the animal appear more uniform and hence harder to see.

But because these caterpillars spend most of their time hanging upside down beneath a twig, their top half is lighter than their bottom. 

The top image shows an upside-down Tau Emperor (Aglia Tau) moth caterpillar appearing to have roughly uniform colouration, but the bottom image shows that it is actually lighter on top. 

These scientists are measuring if light-colour interactions do cancel out so that the caterpillar appears uniform. They are using mathematical modelling and behavioural experiments to determine how much harder caterpillars are to spot when their orientation does, or does not match their counter-shading.

Images copyright under CC licence Olivier Penacchio

Read more: http://julieharrislab.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/photonstoform/

For more BBSRC camouflage related news go to: http://bit.ly/1fA9gPV