Biology

How to make a CRISPR cow

Genome editing offers an opportunity to introduce useful genetic traits into livestock breeding programmes. However, it has proven difficult to insert large DNA fragments into livestock embryos using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Dr Alison Van Eenennaam and Dr Joseph Owen, of the University of California, Davis, employed their knowledge of bovine embryogenesis and DNA repair pathways, and the help of a […]

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Biology

Cell culture protocols for growing human keratinocytes in the laboratory

Dr Hitomi Fujisaki, Senior Research Scientist at Nippi Research Institute of Biomatrix in Japan, studies human epidermal keratinocytes (skin cells) and cancer cells using two- and three-dimensional type I collagen substrates. Through her research, she aims to understand more about the ways in which these cells interact with the substrate that they are grown on, and how this relationship can […]

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Biology

How new RNA genes are born

The study of gene birth and evolution focuses on the identification of ancestral genetic sequences, highly conserved during evolution, that can serve as a foundation for gene development. Nicholas Delihas, Professor Emeritus at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, New York, has identified one such ancestral element and presented data and a model to show how new […]

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Biology

Strength in difference: Genetic distance and heterosis in China

Cross-breeding between different species or populations can cause “hybrid vigour”, or heterosis, resulting in offspring who are genetically fitter than their parents. While this phenomenon is widely recognised in some plants and animals, it is poorly understood in humans. In recent work, Dr Chen Zhu of China Agricultural University, along with her colleagues Dr Xiaohui Zhang, Dr Qiran Zhao and […]

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Biology

Genuinely theoretical: The case for Philosophical Biology

Though his background is in biomedicine, Dr Sepehr Ehsani is currently completing his PhD in philosophy at University College London. In his time working in the lab, Dr Ehsani became more aware of the often-neglected importance of theory. What is sometimes called theoretical biology is not usually ‘theory’ for the most part, in the sense that it is not truly […]

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Biology

More than a just a simple powerhouse: Structure and function of mitochondria

Mitochondria are well-known as the “powerhouse” of the cell – but these organelles have many other vital functions. Mitochondria are also heterogeneous, differing in structure and function. Dr Kasturi Mitra of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama, USA, leads a research team focused on understanding the relationship between structure and function of mitochondria, in both health and disease. Dr Mitra’s […]

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Biology

Investigating the healing arts of Ancient Mesopotamia

Barbara Boeck, of the Institute for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, CSIC Madrid, has studied the cuneiform records of Ancient Mesopotamia to explore their healing methods. With a particular focus on medicinal plants and the practice of divination, she set out to discover how Babylonian practitioners treated their patients, what medicinal plants they recommended for which illnesses, and […]

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Biology

Birds prefer sound texture over sound order

How exactly do birds ‘talk’ to one another? And might research into how birds listen to birdsong help us understand communication both in humans and birds? Dr Robert Dooling and his team, based at the University of Maryland, USA, showed that – for zebra finches at least – the subtle nuances in sound texture or timbre are more important than […]

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Biology

That’s disgusting! How primates decide what not to eat

All animals need to find a way to avoid contact with pathogens when they are eating. For primates, Dr Cécile Sarabian, based at Kyoto University Primate Research Institute in Japan, shows that many species either avoid food contaminated with faeces or thoroughly handle the food, trying to clean it before eating. For the researcher, this is proof that this behaviour […]

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Biology

Shaping the harvest: What determines crop shape?

There is a huge amount of diversity in the shape of different crops, be it a fruit such as tomato or a vegetable such as carrot. Ultimately, the appearance of a plant organ is determined by different cellular control mechanisms. However, it is not known whether these mechanisms are similar across various species in the Plant Kingdom. Dr Esther van […]

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