Plant biologists at the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that an autoimmune response, triggered by a small number of genes, can be a barrier to producing a viable offspring.
Studying Arabidopsis thaliana, sometimes called thale cress, the researchers identified a phenotype that, when paired together from a male and female, produced plants that survived only long enough to produce a few leaves, then died – a phenomenon called hybrid necrosis; literally, death.
Many breeds of African, Asian, and Latin American livestock are at risk of extinction, say scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and they have called for the rapid establishment of genebanks to conserve the sperm and ovaries of key animals critical for the global population’s future survival.
An over-reliance on just a few breeds of a handful of farm animal species, such as high-milk-yielding Holstein-Friesian cows, egg-laying White Leghorn chickens, and fast-growing Large White pigs, is causing the loss of an average of one livestock breed every month according to a recently released report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Stars do not like to be alone. Indeed, most stars are members of a binary system, in which two stars circle around each other in an apparently never-ending cosmic ballet. But sometimes, things can go wrong. When the dancing stars are too close to each other, one of them can start devouring its partner. If the vampire star is a white dwarf – a burned-out star that was once like our Sun – this greed can lead to a cosmic catastrophe: the white dwarf explodes as a Type Ia supernova.
In July 2006, ESO’s Very Large Telescope took images of such a stellar firework in the galaxy NGC 1288.
A nationwide survey of the religious beliefs and practices of American physicians has found that the least religious of all medical specialties is psychiatry. Among psychiatrists who have a religion, more than twice as many are Jewish and far fewer are Protestant or Catholic, the two most common religions among physicians overall.
The study, published in the September 2007 issue of Psychiatric Services, also found that religious physicians, especially Protestants, are less likely to refer patients to psychiatrists, and more likely to send them to members of the clergy or to a religious counselor.
Hepatitis E virus infections can be fatal in pregnant women, but until recently doctors thought the disease was confined to China, India and developing countries. Now Europeans are also contracting the disease in Europe.
Hepatitis E virus is one of the few viruses which has been shown to be transmitted directly from animals through food. It was recently thought to be confined to developing countries, and although scientists are still unsure exactly how it spreads to people, direct contact with pigs or eating contaminated pork products is a likely route.
“If this proves to be a relevant route for pig to human infection for Hepatitis E in Europe, food safety regulations might need to be adapted accordingly”, says Dutch researcher Erwin Duizer.
Antibiotics are over-prescribed for bacterial infections and patients too often fail to complete their courses of treatment properly, which means many bacteria are able to pick up an entire array of antibiotic resistance genes easily by swapping genetic material with each other.
MRSA – the multiple drug resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus - and newly emerging strains of the superbug Clostridium difficile have forced medical researchers to realise that an entirely different approach is required to combat these bacteria.
“By using a virus that only attacks bacteria, called a phage – and some phages only attack specific types of bacteria – we can treat infections by targeting the exact strain of bacteria causing the disease”, says Ana Toribio from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institu