Energy is vital for life. It allows important functions to occur in living systems, from the molecular level to the scale of the whole organism. Dr Helen Greenwood Hansma, from the University of California in Santa Barbara, believes that the types of energy used in living cells can provide clues to help us understand the origins of life. In her recent research, she explores how mechanical energy could have driven the processes that gave rise to early life in the absence of chemical energy.
Weaning is an important time in the pig lifecycle, and changes in diet and environment can lead to unbalanced gut microbiota and pathogen colonisation. Prof. Luciana Rossi, Dr. Matteo Dell’Anno from the University of Milan, and Dr. Maria Luisa Callegari from Catholic University of Sacred Heart, have been investigating the impact on gut bacteria of adding natural compounds known as tannins to piglet food. Importantly, they found that tannins do affect the gut bacteria; with increases seen in bacteria associated with improved growth and gut health, and in particular, those that produce butyrate – a substance with proven health benefits.
A welcome sign of a change in seasons, the year’s first flowers usher in the start of spring. Yet, as the climate warms, some flowers are blooming earlier. Since plants respond to environmental cues, such as temperature, shifts in their annual development has long been considered an effect of climate change. However, significant warming does not always lead to earlier flowering.
Effects of DNA Repair Mechanisms, Oestrogen and Environmental Chemicals on Risk for Breast Cancer | Dr Joseph Jerry
All women are exposed to oestrogen from puberty through menopause. Oestrogen is a natural hormone that is important for breast development and the maintenance of tissues in women but is also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. As many as 1 in 8 women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetime, and the majority of these breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen. Dr Joseph Jerry and his collaborators at the University of Massachusetts are studying the environmental exposures and genetic differences that alter the consequences of exposure to oestrogens.
Revealing How Ocean Chemistry Controlled Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere and Microbial Evolution | Dr Romain Guilbaud
Important clues buried within ancient rocks that were deposited on the ocean floor around one billion of years ago could help scientists understand the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Dr Romain Guilbaud and an international team of researchers from the UK and China analysed the chemical composition of these rocky sediments from the Huainan Basin in North China. Their findings demonstrate how changes in ocean chemistry occurring between one billion and 800 million years ago strongly limited the production of atmospheric oxygen, which is a necessary prerequisite for the planet to host complex life.
Covalent drugs are molecules that irreversibly bind to specific, targeted sites in the body. They work to inhibit the disease-causing functions of certain proteins by preventing them from interacting with other substances. This is a highly promising field of drug development and the focus of Dr Mikail Abbasov from Cornell University, New York, USA. By creating and utilising new technologies and through collaborative research, Dr Abbasov has mapped novel molecular targets for potential covalent drugs to treat ailments ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases.