Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers have developed a new strategy for helping African farmers fight a parasitic plant that devastates crops - plants in the genus Striga, also known as witchweed.

Though their purple flowers are pretty to look at, a field full of Striga plants is in fact a nightmare for a farmer who wants to grow corn, sorghum, rice or other subsistence crops. The problem affects more than 100 million people across 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

 University of Toronto  chemical engineering professor Alexei Savchenko, along with professor Peter McCourt in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology, have created a genetically engineered plant biosensor, a tool that will help them hunt for molecules that could prevent Striga infestations.

A deadline passed on Oct. 3 for countries in the EU to opt out of future "GMO Crop" planting approvals.

Working with gut stem cells from humans and mice, scientists from have successfully grown healthy intestine atop a 3-D scaffold made of a substance used in surgical sutures. 

In a further step that takes their work well beyond proof of concept, researchers report their laboratory-created intestine successfully regenerated gut tissue in the colons of dogs with missing gut lining.

Unlike ales, lager beers differ little in flavor. But now, by creating new crosses among the relevant yeasts, Kevin Verstrepen, PhD, Stijn Mertens, and their collaborators have opened up new horizons of taste. 

The relative uniformity of flavor among lagers turned out to result in significant part from a lack of genetic diversity among the yeasts. Genetic studies showed that lager yeasts had resulted from just two crosses between the parent yeasts, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and S. eubayanus. The problem was that the two yeast species are so different--like lions and tigers--as to make successful crosses rare.

The sonic hedgehog gene, best known for controlling embryonic development, also maintains the normal physiological state and repair process of an adult healthy lung, if damaged, according to new research. 

Tissues are not all created equal in their ability to regenerate. Skin and blood cells are continually turning over, making entirely new populations of cells every few days. At the other end of the spectrum, heart and brain cells regenerate slowly, if at all, after injury. Between these two extremes are tissues such as the lung and liver, which have little cellular turnover in normal adults, but can regenerate extensively after injury. Such tissues, overall, are thought to be quiescent.

An enhanced inflammatory response could be the key link between high saturated fat intake - a recognized risk factor for obesity-related disorders - and the development of diseases like type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

A new study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry demonstrates that ingesting fats similar to those in a Mediterranean-type diet, featuring low saturated fat and high monounsaturated fat, appears to decrease the inflammatory response, both in comparison to a high saturated fat diet, as well as in relation to a low-fat diet.

When cells from the connective tissue collide, they repel one another - this phenomenon was discovered more than 50 years ago. It is only now, however, that researchers at the University of Basel have discovered the molecular basis for this process, as they report in the journal Developmental Cell. Their findings could have important implications for cancer research.

Fibroblasts are motile constituents of the connective tissue and also regulate its stiffness. Moreover, fibroblasts play an important role in malignant skin diseases such as melanoma. In research, they serve as a model system for studying cell migration.

Signaling pathway identified

Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer that kills two-thirds of patients within five years. A patient's outlook with recurrence of the disease is considered to be weeks or months.

An experimental gene therapy essentially doubled the overall survival of patients with recurrent glioblastoma compared to the current standard of care, a researcher said October 1st at the Cancer Therapy&Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. 

Black rice has a rich cultural history; called "Forbidden" or "Emperor's" rice, it was reserved for the Emperor in ancient China and used as a tribute food. In the time since, it remained popular in certain regions of China and recently has become prized worldwide for its high levels of antioxidants.

Despite its long history, the origins of black rice have not been clear. Black rice cultivars are found in locations scattered throughout Asia. However, most cultivated rice (species Oryza sativa) produces white grains, and the wild relative Oryza rufipogon has red grains.

Lovers of french fries, rejoice: the new, non-bruising potato made by Idaho food giant Simplot has hit the market.