Research Roundup (Winter ’15, Week 10)

Every week our Research Editors highlight a few of the latest headlines in science news and explain why these pieces are interesting and applicable to our classes at UC San Diego. If you find an engaging science article, share it with us on our Facebook page and your highlight may just be featured!

Ancient Trees Sprout New Life | Scientific American

In an effort to combat deforestation and protect the genetic diversity of many old-growth forests, the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has cloned tissue from some of the world’s oldest trees, some of which are over 2,000 years old. The cloned saplings are exact genetic matches to the trees they were cut from, and have been planted along the Oregon coast. Hopefully, these efforts will not only preserve the genetic library of these trees, but also help expand the forests.

If you are interested in plant genetic engineering, consider taking Fundamentals of Plant Biology (BICD 120).

Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor

If Apes Go Extinct, So Could Entire Forests | Scientific American

Researchers have determined that if bonobos become extinct, so will several plant species. Bonobos disperse plant seeds through their feces, and studies show that 18 plant species are unable to produce unless the seeds have passed through the digestive system of these apes. Conserving the ape species is important not only for their survival, but for the survival of many other species.

If you are interested in biological conservation, consider taking Conservation and the Human Predicament (BIEB 176).

Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor

Injured spinal cord: Regeneration possible with epothilon? | Science Daily

Damage to the spinal cord rarely heals because the injured nerve cells fail to regenerate. The regrowth of their long nerve fibers is hindered by scar tissue and molecular processes inside the nerves. However, researchers have discovered through animal studies, that the cancer drug, epothilone reduces the formation of scar tissue in injuries to the spinal cord and stimulates growth in damaged nerve cells. This results in neuronal regeneration and motor skill improvement in the animal models.

If you’re interested in learning more, consider taking Systems Neurobiology (BIPN 142).

Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor

Feasibility of blood-based test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease | Science Daily

Researchers at UCLA have provided the first evidence that a simple blood test could be developed to confirm the presence of beta amyloid proteins in the brain, which are main components of amyloid plaques found in people with Alzheimer’s. Although approximately five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, no reliable blood-based test currently exists for this neurodegenerative disorder which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Using blood-based biomarkers (a signature of proteins in the blood that indicates the presence of a disease) to diagnose Alzheimer’s may be a key advancement.

If you’re interested in learning more, consider taking Healthy and Diseased Brain (BIPN 152).

Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor