Biology

Dr Nicholas M. Teets – Advancing Genetic Control of Destructive Fruit Flies

Fruit flies cause significant annual damage to fruit crops globally by laying their eggs into healthy, living fruit tissue. The difficulty in predicting the attacks and controlling the flies before it is too late leads farmers to spray pesticides that can have damaging consequences for surrounding ecosystems. Dr Nicholas M. Teets and his team from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Entomology aim to eliminate the need for pesticides in the battle against these insect pests, through the development of sterile insects that are easy to rear and release en masse.

Dr Renée Arias | Dr Victor Sobolev | Dr Marshall Lamb – Ensuring Peanut Safety by Harnessing Plant Defences

Fungal toxins that may accumulate in peanuts pose a hidden threat to people globally. Whereas European countries and the USA have controls to prevent contaminated seed from entering the market, this is not available in many developing countries, where peanuts are a vital source of protein and nutrients. However, detecting and controlling these toxins has posed significant scientific and economic challenges. Dr Renée Arias, Dr Victor Sobolev and Dr Marshall Lamb of the USDA National Peanut Research Laboratory have pioneered methods for inhibiting toxin production using RNAi technology and enhancing natural peanut defences.

Dr Sanju Sanjaya – Gene Technology for Boosting Biodiesel Production

As the human population increases, so does the demand for food and fuel. However, suitable land for growing crops is already severely limited, and there is an urgent need to protect remaining wilderness areas from being converted into cropland. Through a translational research approach, Dr Sanju Sanjaya and his team at the Energy and Environmental Science Institute of West Virginia State University are developing ways to increase the oil content of crops that are able to grow on poor-quality land, such as reclaimed surface coal mines. By increasing the energy provided by plants, the land requirement to grow both biodiesel and food crops could be significantly reduced.

Professor Dominique Durand – Plugging into the Nervous System

New advances in neural engineering have led to devices that can be operated using the nerves of the user, but the effectiveness and safety of these devices over long periods of use is a key concern. Professor Dominique Durand, Director of the Neural Engineering Center at Case Western Reserve University, leads a team of scientists looking to improve neuroprosthetics through developing new methods of interfacing with the nervous system.

Dr Michael Rothrock – Ensuring Food Safety of Pasture-Raised Chicken

Pasture-raised chicken is viewed as a more ethical option compared to that reared in overcrowded barns. However, pasture-raised birds are more likely to come in contact with bacterial pathogens that can be dangerous to consumers. Dr Michael Rothrock and his colleagues, at the Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, investigate how environmental factors can lead to the contamination of pasture-raised chicken with harmful bacteria. Through their research, the team hopes to find ways of ensuring the safety of this popular food.

Dr Peter McEvoy – Biological Control in the Light of Contemporary Evolution

‘Biological control’ refers to the practice of controlling invasive pest populations by introducing their natural enemies into an ecosystem. Although biological control can reduce reliance on toxic chemicals and protect natural ecosystems, this approach is not without its challenges. Dr Peter McEvoy and his colleagues at Oregon State University discovered that certain biological control organisms show unexpectedly fast rates of evolution, which can lead to unforeseen impacts on ecosystems and agriculture. These scientists believe that it is time to develop an all-embracing theory to help assess the evolutionary potential of biological control organisms that may influence the efficacy and safety of future introduction programs.

Dr Amber Adams-Progar – A Holistic Approach to Improving Dairy Farming

Dairy farming is a tough business, where farmers experience countless challenges on a regular basis, from ensuring the health and welfare of their cattle to protecting the safety of their employees. Dr Amber Adams-Progar and her team in the Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University are involved in many research projects, which aim to improve various aspects of the dairy industry, by protecting farm profits, worker safety and animal welfare.

Dr Elena Galkina – Immune Control of Initiation and Progression of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a global health issue. Atherosclerosis is a multifactorial chronic inflammatory disease characterised by the accumulation of modified lipoproteins and immune cells in the aortic wall, vascular dysfunction, low-grade chronic inflammation, and formation of dangerous atherosclerotic plaques within the medium and large size vessels. Atherosclerosis is a prominent cause of cardiovascular diseases and mortality in many countries and this disease is closely associated with type 2 diabetes. Dr Elena Galkina, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, USA, has been working to determine the immune processes involved in an attempt to identify much-needed novel therapies.

Professor Etienne Sibille | Professor James Cook – Lifting Brain Fog

Effective treatments for cognitive dysfunction, such as declines in memory and other mental faculties often associated with depression or old age, may be within reach, according to Professor Etienne Sibille at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto, Canada. Professor Sibille has shown for the first time that newly synthesised compounds targeting GABA receptors improve specific types of memory in mice, opening the door to the development of effective new pharmacological options.

Dr Elizabeth Nance – The Role of Nanoparticles in Neuroscience

Dr Elizabeth Nance has an impressive track record. Now a Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington, USA, Dr Nance’s work centres around the use of nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic agents to the brain, a seemingly simple operation which is confounded by a highly regulated blood brain barrier which prevents access to the brain and a complex brain environment which prevents access to diseased cells. Her current work also investigates the potential use of nanoparticles to probe tissue environments to map tissue structure, and how tissue structure changes in the presence of a disease.

Dr Matthew Boisen – Understanding Lassa virus

For many years, Dr Matthew Boisen, Director of Diagnostics Development at Zalgen Labs, has focussed on trying to understand Lassa fever. Part of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium, his group’s objectives are threefold: first, to develop fast and accurate diagnostics for Lassa fever; second, to design new therapeutic approaches; and third, to create an effective vaccine providing long-term protection against this condition.

Professor Jeansok Kim – Understanding Fear in Animals

Research into animal fear typically utilises laboratory techniques based on Pavlovian fear conditioning, but these approaches are limited. Professor Jeansok Kim, from the Department of Psychology, University of Washington (USA) has developed a much more realistic way to study fear that closely mimics risky conditions in the wild. New discoveries by Professor Kim and his team are challenging existing paradigms and providing exciting insights into the underlying brain mechanisms of fear in both animals and humans.

Professor Mark D’Esposito – Everyday Miracles: Unravelling the Mysteries of Working Memory

To accomplish even a simple goal, our brain must coordinate thousands of pieces of information, remember which parts are relevant, and ignore anything that is extraneous. Dr Mark D’Esposito of the University of California, Berkeley, studies how different parts of the brain work together to create working memory, the cognitive system that temporarily and actively holds information in mind allowing us to complete complex tasks.

Professor Mark D’Esposito – Leveraging New Technologies to Treat Brain Injury

The brain is the most mysterious organ in the human body – despite decades of research, we have just begun to scratch the surface in understanding how the brain works and how we can help it to heal following an injury. Professor Mark D’Esposito of the University of California, Berkeley, uses advanced imaging technology to illuminate how the connections in our brain function in order to find new ways to aid brain healing after injury.

Dr Mary Logan | Dr Sean Speese – Protecting the Brain

Our nervous system has such an important function in our body that neurons have their own bodyguards. Known as glial cells, they protect brain cells against injury and prevent damage. Dr Mary Logan and Dr Sean Speese, both based at the Jungers Center for Neuroscience...

PPM: Tailoring Cannabis to Create Medicine for the Masses

  Cannabis is a plant that remains largely stigmatised, along with people who consume or condone it. However, Dr Andrea Holmes and her colleagues at Precision Plant Molecules are revealing the numerous hidden benefits of cannabis, when processed with precision....

Dr Lei Cao – The Impact of Our Environment on Our Well-being

The human body is a bewildering set of interacting systems, a complex web of signals and pathways which are constantly adjusting to the conditions which we find ourselves in. Ground-breaking research by Dr Lei Cao, of Ohio State University, USA, is providing new...

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation promotes academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from abroad and from Germany. To this end, it grants more than 700 research fellowships and research awards annually. These allow researchers from all over...

Worldwide Cancer Research

Worldwide Cancer Research is a UK-based charity, founded in 1979. It funds research into all types of cancer across the globe, specifically focusing on early-stage basic laboratory science aiming to provide the seeds of discovery which may ultimately lead to...