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

Aug01

Research linking gut health, mucus and inflammatory bowel disease

These images show a mouse colon tissue stained for mucus (green), sugars (red) and cell nuclei (blue).

The human colon, much like the mouse colon, is covered by a protective layer of mucus. This mucus is made up of two layers, one loose layer which provides a source of sugars and a habitat for our gut bacteria, and a firm layer underneath which stops the bacteria from entering our body. This way, we can keep our gut bacteria at a safe distance while still benefiting from them.

These layers of mucus are produced by specialised cells called goblet cells. Fluorescence staining of intestinal tissue, as seen in the images above, is a technique that allows us to visualise mucus-filled goblet cells in the gut lining.

BBSRC-funded scientists from the Institute of Food Research, the only publicly funded UK research institute focussing on the underlying science of food and health, have found that mice with immune deficiency show alterations in their goblet cell numbers and their mucus composition. And they had increased susceptibility to develop colitis, a  condition similar to human inflammatory bowel disease.

Research into mucus regulation is therefore a promising route to find novel new preventative and/or therapeutic strategies to maintain gut health.

Research and images from Olivia Kober and Nathalie Juge.

Read the full paper for free: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962592/

Read more about this BBSRC-funded institute: http://www.ifr.ac.uk/

Read more about the researcher: http://blogs.ifr.ac.uk/ghfs/tag/nathalie-juge/

Aug01

"DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created."


Bill Gates, The Road Ahead. Bill Gates visits BBSRC investment http://bit.ly/1u6m89y

Jul29

Scientists look to cow slurry for potential renewable biofuels

A BBSRC-funded team at the University of Warwick is investigating how to use methane-producing microbes that can be found in cow slurry to generate renewable biofuels.

Watch this University of Warwick video where Henry Porter, a BBSRC-funded PhD student from Professor Orkun Soyer’s lab, explains the idea behind this process and what they hope to discover: http://youtu.be/yaQV9eG-AZs

The top and bottom images show Methanosarcina barkeri, a methane producing microbe from the cow slurry. In the bottom image, the cells have been stimulated by light to show their unique blue fluorescence. Images from Tobias Großkopf.

Middle image shows PhD student Henry Porter. Image from Conal Reid.

Jul25

Researchers have engineered cells’ to accumulate more metal, but why?
It is estimated that approximately half of all proteins, which are essential parts of all living organisms, contain metal and need it to function. These proteins are called metallo-proteins and they contribute to a huge range of industry ventures that support our lives including; bio-energy production, bioremediation, creation of high value feed-stocks and biomedicine.
BBSRC-funded research is discovering how cells help proteins to acquire the correct metals and are exploiting this knowledge to the benefit of industry and society.
This image shows a culture of the photosynthetic bacterium (Synechocystis PCC 6803) engineered to accumulate extra nickel (green). To do this scientists found the cells’ nickel detector, and then engineered its sensitivity to allow extra nickel to accumulate in the cell. More nickel should lead to more hydrogen production from Hydrogenase a protein in the cell that can generate hydrogen gas: A potential fuel.
Visit the BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bio-energy (BBSRC NIBB) on “Metals in Biology: The elements of Biotechnology and Bioenergy”:http://prospect.rsc.org/MiB_NIBB/

Visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mmi.12594/abstract to understand how the detector discerns nickel from other metals.
Image from Professor Nigel Robinson

Researchers have engineered cells’ to accumulate more metal, but why?

It is estimated that approximately half of all proteins, which are essential parts of all living organisms, contain metal and need it to function. These proteins are called metallo-proteins and they contribute to a huge range of industry ventures that support our lives including; bio-energy production, bioremediation, creation of high value feed-stocks and biomedicine.

BBSRC-funded research is discovering how cells help proteins to acquire the correct metals and are exploiting this knowledge to the benefit of industry and society.

This image shows a culture of the photosynthetic bacterium (Synechocystis PCC 6803) engineered to accumulate extra nickel (green). To do this scientists found the cells’ nickel detector, and then engineered its sensitivity to allow extra nickel to accumulate in the cell. More nickel should lead to more hydrogen production from Hydrogenase a protein in the cell that can generate hydrogen gas: A potential fuel.

Visit the BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bio-energy (BBSRC NIBB) on “Metals in Biology: The elements of Biotechnology and Bioenergy”:http://prospect.rsc.org/MiB_NIBB/

Visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mmi.12594/abstract to understand how the detector discerns nickel from other metals.

Image from Professor Nigel Robinson