Genetics

Genome of ancient-looking fish gives clues to first limbed landlubbers

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 17, 2013   View Article

The genome of the coelacanth, an ancient-looking lobed-finned fish, has been sequenced and is already providing insight to the evolutionary changes that allowed the first four-limbed animals, called tetrapods, to crawl out of the water and on to land.

The sequence and preliminary analysis, reported Thursday in the journal Nature by a team spanning 40 research institutions and 12 countries, is a “massive piece of work,” Xiaobo Xu, a paleontologist at Kean University who was not involved in the effort, told NBC News in an email.

Aye aye! Sequence genomes to save species

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 25, 2013   View Article

A study of nocturnal lemurs in Madagascar known for their smarts, beaver-like teeth, and long, thin middle fingers may point to the future of endangered species conservation: cheap and fast genome analyses.

Researchers obtained and compared complete genomes from three separate populations of aye ayes and found that one is more distinct from the others than are humans of African and European descent, suggesting that the population warrants greater conservation attention.

Inventor of plumbing on a chip wins $500,000 prize

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 4, 2012   View Article

Stephen Quake, a prolific inventor whose application of physics to biology has led to breakthroughs in drug discovery, genome analysis and personalized medicine, has won the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, a prestigious award for outstanding innovators.

“A big part of physics is trying to figure out how to measure things,” Quake, who is a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Stanford University, told me. “And so I get interested in a biological problem [and] figure out a way to measure it.”

Tiny Breathing Plant Mouths

Publication: HHMI Bulletin   Date: May 1, 2012   View Article

When Keiko Torii gazed through the microscope at a mutant Arabidopsis thaliana leaf covered in specialized cells called meristemoids, she saw more than a beautiful anatomic anomaly—she saw a new way to probe a fundamental system in developmental biology.

Meristemoids are stem-cell-like precursors that give rise to a pair of guard cells, which form stomata—tiny pores on the skin of almost all land plants that are crucial for the exchange of water vapor and gas during photosynthesis. Close study of meristemoids has largely eluded scientists because the cells, by nature, are transient and few and far between.

“When I looked at this,” Torii says, pointing to a poster-size image of the mutant leaf with a tightly packed honeycomb of DayGlo blue meristemoids hanging on her office wall at the University of Washington, “I thought maybe this could be an economical tool to study what makes a meristemoid a meristemoid.”

Australia’s hybrid shark reveals evolution in action

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 3, 2012   View Article

Hybrid sharks have been discovered swimming in the waters off Australia’s east coast. The finding may be driven by climate change, a research team says, suggesting such discoveries could be more common in the future.

The hybridization is between the Australian black tip shark which favors tropical waters and the larger, common black tip shark, which favors sub-tropical and temperate waters.

Yeast adds vitamins to bread

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 24, 2011   View Article

Bread loaded with beta-carotene, the stuff that makes carrots orange and helps prevent blindness, could improve the health of millions of people, thanks to a strain of genetically enhanced yeast developed by undergraduate students.

“It looks exactly like normal bread,” Arjun Khakhar, a junior biomedical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University, told me Monday. “There’s no orange color or anything because the yeast only makes up a very small part of the bread.”

Magnetic algae make biofuels sticky

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 21, 2011   View Article

Scientists at a government lab in New Mexico have created what appear to be magnetic algae, a breakthrough that could lower the cost of harvesting biofuels from the microscopic plants.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach