Genetics & Molecular Biology

It is estimated that 5% of women experience two clinical miscarriages and approximately 1% suffer three or more losses. 

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust have found that body clock genes could affect women's ability to have children. The study pinpoints how body clock genes are temporarily switched off in the lining of the womb to allow an embryo to implant. Timing of this event is critical for pregnancy. 

Shaved heads have come in and out of fashion over the past few decades, but some people don’t have the option of allowing their locks to grow.

Thankfully, for those who do suffer from hair loss, or alopecia, help may be at hand. Somewhat counter-intuitively an effective treatment for baldness may come from plucking a certain number of hairs – in a specific formation – from the scalp.

Skin is remarkably resistant to tearing and a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory now have shown why.

Using powerful X-ray beams and electron microscopy, researchers made the first direct observations of the micro-scale mechanisms that allow skin to resist tearing. They identified four specific mechanisms in collagen, the main structural protein in skin tissue, that act together to diminish the effects of stress: rotation, straightening, stretching, and sliding. Researchers say they hope to replicate these mechanisms in synthetic materials to provide increased strength and in better resistance to tearing.
Bacteria have an immune system to fight off invasive viruses called phages, and like any immune system, from single-celled to human, the first challenge of the bacterial immune system is to detect the difference between “foreign” and “self.”

Since all living things are made of DNA and proteins, how do viruses and bacteria recognize their own? 

“In most environments, phages are around ten times more abundant than bacteria. And, like all viruses, phages use the host cell’s replication machinery to make copies of themselves,” says Prof. Rotem Sorek of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Molecular Genetics. “And they are constantly evolving new ways to do this. So bacteria need a very active immune system to survive.”
When a heart attack strikes, the effects are lingering: heart muscle cells die and scar tissue forms, which makes future heart failure more likely.

Gene variations that could mean yield increases, drought tolerance and aflatoxin resistance will boost productivity in the years to come.

A study included the growing years of 2011, a drought year, and 2012, on dryland and irrigated corn in College Station and in Mississippi, all with similar results, said Dr. Seth Murray, an AgriLife Research corn breeder in the soil and crop science department of Texas A&M University at College Station. 

A broccoli variety modified to have two to three times more of the naturally occurring compound glucoraphanin, which is linked to antioxidants and other health benefits, also reduces blood LDL-cholesterol levels by around 6%, according to results of human trials. 

Glucoraphanin is thought to work by helping maintain cellular metabolism. Mitochondria, the energy factories of the cell, convert sugars and fats into energy, but if they aren't working efficiently, one response is to channel excess into cholesterol.  
A new study has found that nearly all pancreatic cancers enslave and deform mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, and force them to divide unnaturally, to lose their normal shape and collapse around the cell's nucleus. 

This creates an environment even more conducive to tumor growth. 

The diversity within grapevine varieties is incredibly rich. This is good news for viticulturists – grape cultivators – and wine makers because it allows them to adapt their wine production according to the conditions in their vineyards and to the wines they want to make.

Pinot is one of the most ancient grapevine varieties and the Pinot family is an invaluable source for the production of a wide range of wines from around the world. There’s the Pinot noir from Burgundy, California or New Zealand, Pinot Meunier in Champagne, Pinot gris in Alsace or Pinot blanc in Italy.

Boosting the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields and feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, according to a new report. 

Photosynthetic microbes offer other clues to improving photosynthesis in plants. For example, some bacteria and algae contain pigments that utilize more of the solar spectrum than plant pigments do. If added to plants, those pigments could bolster the plants' access to solar energy. Some scientists are trying to engineer C4 photosynthesis in C3 plants, but this means altering plant anatomy, changing the expression of many genes and inserting new genes from C4 plants.