Apr16

Have a happy Easter, full of happy eggs

It is probably not uppermost in your mind when you dye eggs for Easter that you are depending on an invisible structure called the cuticle being present for the eggs to colour properly. But the amount of change in colour you see depends on how much cuticle is present on the egg.

Having colourful Easter eggs is good news, but more importantly this same cuticle prevents bacteria entering the egg. This reduces the chance of bacteria reaching the developing chick if the egg is fertile and keeps the non-fertile eggs we eat safe.

Industry and BBSRC-funded scientist are developing tools which are better, although less colourful, to measure the amount of cuticle on an egg. This will allow genetic selection to improve the cuticle and improve egg safety. 

Research from: The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Lohmann Tierzucht and Aviagen

Image of the green eggs from Norrie Russell.

Images of the bowl of dyed eggs from Hannah Dunn.

Apr14

Smartphone app watches out for chicken welfare

Researchers are aiming to improve the welfare of chickens by enabling farmers to manage their flocks more efficiently using a smartphone app.

Some 58 billion chickens each year are used in food production and to enable chicken meat to be cheap and easily available, they can be kept in large flocks of up to 50,000 birds. These chickens are bred to put on weight very rapidly so that they can reach a slaughter weight in just 35 days. These methods that have increase food production have brought with them welfare problems for the birds – such as a tendency to lameness and cardiovascular diseases – which BBSRC-funded scientists from The University of Oxford are hoping to address.

Scientists have been developing a system that constantly monitors the welfare of chickens throughout their lives. It works on smartphones placed inside chicken houses, using the phones’ built in cameras to monitor the movement of bird flocks (see video). By measuring the optical flow (rate of change in image brightness) patterns, the app picks out flocks with unusual movement and predicts welfare problems days or even weeks before these become serious, thus allowing the farmer to intervene. 

Video credit: Marian Dawkins and Tom Nickson from the University of Oxford

For more BBSRC news visit: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/news-index.aspx

Apr10

Meet Drosophila melanogaster - the common fruit fly 
Researchers form University College London are studying the ‘body clock’ of these common crawlies,to help overcome the negative impacts of desynchronised body clocks in humans  - caused by shift work, ageing, or mutation of clock genes.
Life on our planet is embedded in the daily rhythms of light/dark and temperature changes caused by the earths’ rotation. Our internal circadian clock, often referred to as the ‘body clock’, creates the internal rhythm which tells our bodies when to sleep and regulates many other physiological processes. The clock enables us to anticipate environmental changes and adapt our physiology and behaviour to the local time in our external world. This synchronization between internal and external time is important for the fitness and well-being of all organisms, ranging from bacteria to humans.
BBSRC-funded Ralf Stanewsky and his team study the genetic, molecular, and neuronal mechanisms of how these environmental signals – such as daily light and temperature changes – affect the circadian clock of the fruit fly.They hope to identify general principles of circadian clock synchronization, so that these features can be adapted and used to protect against adverse health linked to disrupted body clocks.
Image from Ralf Stanewsky at University College London
Read more at: http://bit.ly/1lMFugo
For more Drosophila related news visit: http://bit.ly/1hDqIDz

Meet Drosophila melanogaster - the common fruit fly 

Researchers form University College London are studying the ‘body clock’ of these common crawlies,to help overcome the negative impacts of desynchronised body clocks in humans  - caused by shift work, ageing, or mutation of clock genes.

Life on our planet is embedded in the daily rhythms of light/dark and temperature changes caused by the earths’ rotation. Our internal circadian clock, often referred to as the ‘body clock’, creates the internal rhythm which tells our bodies when to sleep and regulates many other physiological processes. The clock enables us to anticipate environmental changes and adapt our physiology and behaviour to the local time in our external world. This synchronization between internal and external time is important for the fitness and well-being of all organisms, ranging from bacteria to humans.

BBSRC-funded Ralf Stanewsky and his team study the genetic, molecular, and neuronal mechanisms of how these environmental signals – such as daily light and temperature changes – affect the circadian clock of the fruit fly.They hope to identify general principles of circadian clock synchronization, so that these features can be adapted and used to protect against adverse health linked to disrupted body clocks.

Image from Ralf Stanewsky at University College London

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1lMFugo

For more Drosophila related news visit: http://bit.ly/1hDqIDz

Apr08

Cell survival in low oxygen environments

When the body is deprived of enough oxygen it can cause the death of cells. In this video, you can see living cells in a low oxygen environment, which ironically look like little ghosts. In an attempt to survive, cells are accumulating a protein called hypoxia inducible factor (green).

By monitoring the levels of this protein in cells and observing how it affects genes switching on, BBSRC-funded researchers at The University of Liverpool have shown that the timing of the protein increase and disappearance in cells is essential for cell survival, a development that could have implications for cancer patients and other serious illnesses.

Research from: Dr Violaine See at The University of Liverpool

Video credited to: James Bagnall

For more information on this research visit: http://bit.ly/R03OBv

Or go to the BBSRC website for more science news: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/home/home.aspx

Apr03

Food, famine and fungi

Ustilago maydis is a fungus that infects maize crops and causes the disease corn smut. In these images you can see the corn smut fungus (green) infecting a maize leaf (red). This infection will cause large plant ‘tumors’ and can eventually result in plant death.

Diseases like this pose a major threat to modern agriculture and therefore understanding fungal plant pathogens is of huge importance. 

BBSRC-funded scientists from The University of Exeter hope to understand the complex interplay between this fungal pathogen and its plant host. This knowledge will then help in the development of novel fungicides that can stop crop infection and keep food on our forks.

Images and research from Professor Gero Steinberg at the University of Exeter.

For more information on his research go to: http://bit.ly/1sbhNCo

For more plant related blog posts go to: http://tmblr.co/ZtJ7bq16IST19r

Or visit our Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews

Apr01

The new IPCC Climate Change Report is just out. Could new sources of energy help combat climate change?

Meet the Gribble

This little critter could help power cars of the future by turning wood into liquid fuel. 

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/industrial-biotechnology/2012/121128-f-meet-the-gribbles.aspx

Image: Laura Michie with thanks to Dr Alex Ball for permission to use the confocal microscopy facilities at The Natural History Museum.

(Source: bbsrc)

Mar31

It’s BBSRC’s birthday this week!

You can find out more about some of the Great British Bioscience highlights that have occurred over the past 20 years by looking at BBSRC’s interactive timeline: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/timeline/.

The timeline shows where BBSRC’s investments have made a difference – from ground-breaking scientific discoveries, state-of-the-art facilities, shaping Government policies, to the impact that these have had for our society and the economy (see three examples above).

 Enjoy, engage and share.

Mar27

 Ash dieback

The images above show ash trees and leaf stalks infected by the ash dieback fungus, a serious disease affecting our native ash trees. The disease, which is caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, has spread from other parts of Europe to the UK. The fungus is thought to have been spread through importing infected ash trees and by the movement of wind-blown fungal spores.

NORNEX, a research consortium involving eleven research centres coordinated by Professor Allan Downie from the John Innes Centre, is using an open-access model to generate deeper knowledge of this disease.

By looking at the genetic information behind ash dieback and of infected plants, researchers have established that there is a diverse range of the Chalara fraxinea fungus with differing genetic makeup, responsible for widespread infection across Europe. NORNEX scientists are also working on identifying the inheritance of low disease susceptibility among ash trees.

BBSRC funds various projects helping to save trees across the UK, and this week seven new research projects have been given funding to help address threats to UK trees. This new project will generate knowledge to tackle pests and diseases to support the future health of the UK’s woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees with societal benefits estimated at around £1.8 Bn per year.

Images of close-up infected ash petioles (leaf stems)  photographed by Andrew Davis from the John Innes Centre. The image of the Ash tree was photographed by Anne Edwards.

These images are from work done within the NORNEX programme which is funded jointly by the BBSRC and DEFRA.

For more information on the NORNEX project visit http://nornex.org/

For more BBSRC tree related news visit http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/fundamental-bioscience/2014/140325-pr-projects-to-help-save-forests-woods-trees.aspx

Or visit our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews

Mar24

Summer time visitors
This image shows a migrating Painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui, feeding on nectar to sustain its flight from the UK back to North Africa.
Many insects, like this butterfly, make a long journey into the UK each summer to exploit temporary breeding habitats. But climate warming is resulting in more migrants, which is a concern for UK agriculture because many insect migrants are pests.
Researchers from the University of York have been studying migratory flight behaviour that enables insects to undertake successful migrations. This research will help predict future outbreaks of insect pests helping farming across the UK.
Images and research from Jane Hill at the University of York.
For more BBSRC research go to: https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews
Or for more insect related news go to: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/fundamental-bioscience/2014/140318-n-fruit-flies-and-that-loving-feeling.aspx

Summer time visitors

This image shows a migrating Painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui, feeding on nectar to sustain its flight from the UK back to North Africa.

Many insects, like this butterfly, make a long journey into the UK each summer to exploit temporary breeding habitats. But climate warming is resulting in more migrants, which is a concern for UK agriculture because many insect migrants are pests.

Researchers from the University of York have been studying migratory flight behaviour that enables insects to undertake successful migrations. This research will help predict future outbreaks of insect pests helping farming across the UK.

Images and research from Jane Hill at the University of York.

For more BBSRC research go to: https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews

Or for more insect related news go to: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/fundamental-bioscience/2014/140318-n-fruit-flies-and-that-loving-feeling.aspx

Mar20

The Worm Wagon

The top image in this trio shows a close up of an adult Trichuris muris, a whipworm parasite. Here the worm is seen under an electron microscope but more commonly this type of worm is seen taking residence in the large intestine of its host. 

In the second image you can see illustrations of Schistosoma mansoni by Paul Evans © 2012. This parasite lives in the blood and lays thousands of eggs which result in tissue damage and even death.

BBSRC-funded Sheena Cruickshank (centre of picture) and Professor Kathryn Else (right), are lecturers at The University of Manchester who specialise in studying parasites. Both are co-founders, with Dr Jo Pennock (left), of the outreach activity called The Worm Wagon: an exhibition that is part of the BBSRC’s 20th Anniversary Festival. This exhibit will focus on explaining how people catch infections and the global significance of these infections.

When not on The Worm Wagon their day to day research tries to understand the biology and immunology of parasite infection. Part of Sheena’s research is finding markers we can use to help diagnose patients who respond badly to infection and those who don’t. Professor Else concentrates more on vaccine research and how the damage caused by infection is regulated.

This research is vital considering the biggest killer of people under 50 is infection.

Images of Trichuris muris from Uta Rossler, Richard Grencis and Toby Starborg FLS, UoM.

Image of researchers by Mark Waugh, UoM.

For more bioscience news visit our facebook https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews. Oh and don’t forget to like it!