Biology

In-situ monitoring of microbial circuitry

Microbial metabolisms are valuable tools in industrial biotechnology. The ability to monitor and measure the productivity of microbes is essential, but many standard techniques are limited by issues of labour- and time-intensity. With funding from the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, Office of Science, and Environmental Management Program as well as the Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction agency. Dr Charles (Chuck) […]

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Biology

The acidic brine lakes of Chile: A surprising microbial community

  The Andean salt flats of Chile are well known for their vast natural beauty. Interspersed within their white salt-crusts, small lakes, springs and creeks can be found alongside the unique microbial communities that inhabit them. Drs Cecilia Demergasso and Guillermo Chong along with a multidisciplinary research team from the Universidad Católica del Norte of Chile, are currently investigating the […]

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Biology

Machine metaphors: Ethical and philosophical challenges in synthetic biology

The emerging field of synthetic biology faces a growing need for conceptual clarification and ethical deliberation. Dr Joachim Boldt from the University of Freiburg has analysed the use of machine metaphors in describing biological systems, and how language affects the approaches we have towards synthetic biology research. In addition to oversimplifying biological systems, machine metaphors can create new biosafety risks and […]

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Biology

A research model for carbon-partitioning in sugarcane

Yellow Canopy Syndrome (YCS), first observed in 2012, is an undiagnosed condition affecting Australian sugarcane. It causes mid-canopy leaves to turn yellow, decreasing crop sugar yields. Dr Frederik Botha oversees YCS research for Sugar Research Australia (SRA). Focused on gene expression and protein and metabolite levels, this research seeks molecular targets to improve genetic tolerance to YCS and enhance sugarcane productivity in […]

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Biology

Reading between the clicks: A new approach to echolocation

Biologists are increasingly appreciating the importance of bioacoustics in conservation. By understanding the soundscape of an environment we can learn far more than previously thought. This is also the case for animal behaviour, a classic example being echolocation in bats and dolphins. Dr Alyssa Accomando, from Brown University and the National Marine Mammal Foundation, is studying echolocation to determine how […]

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Biology

The biology of ageing

What causes ageing? Is it inevitable? Could it be slowed or even reversed? Humans have wanted to know the answer to these questions ever since we became aware of our own mortality. Despite the tremendous advances that have been made in our scientific understanding over the past century, ageing remains one of the greatest mysteries in biological science. But scientists, […]

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Biology

Pathogenic microorganisms targeted by complex cellular communications

When the human body is challenged by infection, the defences of the immune system are called into action. Dr Malini Sen of the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology is leading research into the role of a protein called Wnt5a in defending against invading pathogenic microorganisms. Wnt5a is found in macrophages, large white blood cells that form one of the first lines of defence […]

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Biology

Better and stronger potatoes using hybrid breeding

Potato is a hugely important crop worldwide, being eaten across the world and across cultures. Increased crop productivity and strength will help cater for the increasing global population, and also serve to reduce famine in challenging and impoverished environments. The potato breeding company Solynta in The Netherlands has successfully produced a hybrid breeding program for potatoes which will allow the rapid selection and […]

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Biology

Into the deep: understanding swordfish eco-physiology

Cold-blooded vertebrates, such as fish, are extremely susceptible to changes in the temperature of their surroundings. Yet one successful ocean predator, the swordfish, migrates from tropical to temperate seas, and dives daily from warm surface waters to cooler depths, with seeming ease. Drs Diego Bernal and Chugey Sepulveda of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the Pfleger Institute of Environmental […]

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