The Cat in the Hat and the mosquito

MosquitocomicIn 1943, years before that Cat came to call, Dr Suess drew a comic book on malaria for U.S. troops heading to the tropics. You can see it on the “Young Dipterists” web site run by the Smithsonian Institution’s entomology laboratory and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The advice for avoiding malaria has not changed much in sixty years: use repellents, use a bednet, fill in ditches and holes where mosquitos breed. Researchers from the UC Mosquito Research Program, based at UC Davis, are working with African scientists on preventing malaria transmission, including the use of bednets impregnated with insecticides. You can buy a shirt to support their efforts.

Comparative medicine and animal research

Continuing our discussion on KQED’s Forum, Steve Barthold, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine at UC Davis is introducing the topic of veterinary research and human health. “We see it as one medicine — Our medical colleagues see one species, we see a panoply of species,” he says.

Jerry Gillespie of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security is discussing food supply issues, and host Michael Krasny notes that “more inspections, more certification” will need more veterinarians — especially with research expertise, Gillespie adds.

KQED Forum live at the Vet School

This morning I’m blogging live from the broadcast of KQED’s Forum talk show, live from a lecture theater at the School of Veterinary Medicine. We have an audience of about fifty people here, and in the first hour we have been hearing about the need for more veterinarians, and the changing role of vets in society. A lot of questions have been focussing on food safety and animal welfare issues. Also, we’ve heard about UC Davis’s programs to get veterinary students out on the farm, and that bilingual skills are going to be useful if you work on a dairy farm.

Wildlife on the road

Road ecology has taken off in the past decade, according to this article in last weekend’s Contra Costa Times. At the forefront, the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis.

“It’s a new area, a new way of perceiving roads,” said Alison Berry, director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “People used to think of roads as moving things from point A to point B, as human and economic networks, but now it turns out that they’re also part of the (natural) landscape.”

See one, do one, teach one…

… is an old formula for learning a lab procedure. But what if there’s no one around to show you in the first place? Try the Journal of Visualized Experiments. They plan to publish short videos of experimental procedures. There’s a small selection up already.

You might want to be careful what you post, though: in the video I just looked at, a technician appeared to be delving into a liquid nitrogen tank wearing latex gloves.

(Via Nature News service and the Frontal Cortex).

Events: Vets on the air, Iranian nukes

KQED public radio’s “Forum” will broadcast live from the School of Veterinary Medicine tomorrow morning, Nov. 29 — the show goes on the air at 9 am and runs until 11 am. The first hour will be a discussion of the future of veterinary medicine, with Bennie Osburn, dean of veterinary medicine, and Richard Breitmeyer, California State Veterinarian. The topic in the 10 o’clock hour will be how research in animal health can benefit human health, with Steve Barthold, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine and Kent Lloyd, associate dean of the Vet School and director of the Mouse Biology Program.

Bid now for brain imaging tour

Never mind the sports memorabilia, power lunches with mayors, resort packages and jet-fighter “experiences”: leading the bidding in Solano Community College’s charity auction is a behind-the-scenes look at the latest in brain imaging with David Shelton, chief of nuclear medicine and PET imaging at UC Davis Medical Center. Perhaps that proves that there’s nothing more interesting than what goes on inside ourselves.

PET MouseAt UC Davis, PET imaging is not just a clinical service. Biomedical engineer Simon Cherry and colleagues are working on pushing the technology forward, including PET scanners for laboratory animals, which have already been used in breast cancer research, and other refinements of imaging technology.

Old monkeys, new memory clues

The Sacramento Bee has front-page story this morning on aging research at the California National Primate Research Center. The NIH-funded center houses about 5,000 monkeys, mostly rhesus macaques, and has a particularly large number of aging monkeys over 19 years old. The animals can live to be about 30 at the Center, far older than they would reach in the wild. Researchers are coming to Davis from around the country to learn about the aging process — why do we forget where we put things? what effect do hormones such as estrogen have on memory loss? how can we treat Alzheimer’s disease?

Wild about wheat

I guess wheat doesn’t have too high a profile at Thanksgiving, except for the bread rolls. But while most Americans are sitting down to turkey today, Science magazine is publishing a paper showing that reintroducing a gene lost when wheat was domesticated thousands of years ago can boost nutrients in the cereal crop. A UC Davis press release about the work is here.
“We really can produce wheat with more protein and more zinc and iron,” Jorge Dubcovsky, a plant geneticist at UC Davis and lead author on the study, told Reuters. The gene allows the plant to move more zinc and iron out of the stalk and into the grain. The taste and quality of the wheat is not affected.

3-D X-ray images of nanoparticles

Subhash Risbud, professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, John Miao from UCLA, and colleagues from Japan and Taiwan just published a paper in Physical Review Letters describing a new X-ray microscope that can look at nanomaterials in three dimensions. The device could be used for making better materials, for example for use in electronics, optics and biotechnology.

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has traditionally been used to study nanomaterials, but because electrons do not penetrate far into materials, the sample preparation procedure is usually complicated and destructive. Furthermore, TEM only gives two-dimensional images.