Printed spots for growing liver stem cells

[Contributed by Holly Ober, Biomedical Engineering]

Transplanted liver cells could repair livers damaged by toxins or infections. Stem cells hold tremendous promise for liver-related therapies because they can grow in a Petri dish to become any cell type, including liver cells. However, scientists have yet to identify the best reagents to add into the Petri dish to push stem cells to become liver cells. An expensive and time-consuming process of trial and error guides the discovery of reagents and signals for stem cell differentiation. Now, a team of biomedical engineers led by Prof. Alexander Revzin at UC Davis has found a way to grow liver cells from stem cells more cheaply and effectively than current methods.

Career Achievement Award for Zuhair Munir

The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) has selected UC Davis College of Engineering professor emeritus Zuhair A. Munir as recipient of the 2011 ACerS W. David Kingery Award. The annual award recognizes a candidate’s career achievements in multidisciplinary and global contributions to ceramic technology, science, education and art. The society’s Board of Directors unanimously selected Munir for this distinguished honor.

A former dean of the UC Davis College of Engineering, Munir also served as the college’s associate dean for graduate studies for 20 years. During his professional life, Munir has made a global impact in the field of ceramics through his research on the technology of field activation and on the thermodynamics and kinetics of materials processing and synthesis, as well as his teaching in materials science.

10+10 bring Chinese chemists to UC Davis next week

Chemists from Peking University, China will be on campus next week, May 5-6, for a workshop on “New Global Frontiers in Chemical Biology.” The event is the fourth in a series of half-yearly meetings that alternates between the UC Davis Department of Chemistry and Peking University’s College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering.

The meetings are part of the “10 + 10 Alliance” between the University of California’s ten campuses and ten premier Chinese universities launched in 2005. The UC Davis chemistry department has a relationship with Peking University under the 10 + 10 Alliance as well as a separate agreement extending collaborations to include postdoctoral researchers as well as faculty and students.

The eyes have it: Dinosaurs hunted by night

UC Davis scientists can now determine whether a dinosaur was active by day, by night or around the clock — if they can find a fossil with well-preserved eyebones. The research by geology professor Ryosuke Motani and Lars Schmitz, a postdoc in Evolution and Ecology, is published online today in Science Express.

Scleral ringAnd it’s getting lots of coverage. Here’s a roundup:

BBC News Dinosaurs were active both day and night, study claims

New Scientist First evidence that some dinosaurs were nocturnal

NPR Dinosaur eyes yield clues to hunting habits

USA Today (with slideshow and video) Some dinosaurs nocturnal

Bizarre ‘traffic cone’ life in an Antarctic Lake

In an upcoming issue of the journal Geobiology, UC Davis geologist Dawn Sumner, Dale Andersen of the SETI Institute and colleagues will describe strange and unique Stromatoliteslife forms under the ice of Lake Untersee in Antarctica. They are stromatolites, a form of microbial life that over hundreds or even thousands of years has built orange-cone shaped mounds in the lake. (Read a full story about the discovery in Science News.)

Stromatolites are now rare on Earth, but are one of the earliest forms of life to leave a trace in the fossil record. So seeing them is like being able to travel back in time to the beginnings of life three billion years ago, Sumner told Science News.

Volunteers needed for endometriosis study

Researchers led by Dr. Antoni Duleba of the UC Davis Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are recruiting women aged 18-44 for a study of endometriosis. Volunteers may be healthy or have a diagnosis of endometriosis, a disorder of the female reproductive system. In endometriosis, the endometrium, which normally lines the uterus, grows in other places as well, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining the pelvis.

To be eligible for the study, volunteers should not be taking hormones or using hormonal birth control or an intrauterine device (IUD), and have predictable menses.

Hunting linked to lead in birds

Two new UC Davis studies add scientific evidence that hunters’ lead ammunition often finds its way into carrion-eating birds, such as eagles and turkey vultures.These scavenger species often take advantage of animal remains left behind when a hunter cleans a kill or when a shot deer or wild pig escapes the hunter but dies later.However, when the remains contain lead shot pellets or bullet fragments, the scavenger birds can develop lead poisoning, which can cause inability to fly, starvation, anemia, blindness, seizures and death.In 1991, to protect bald eagles, lead ammunition was banned in the United States for hunting waterfowl. In 2008, to protect California condors, lead ammunition was similarly banned in California condor range for most hunting activities.

Higher ed cuts will hurt farming, too

Following a visit to the editorial board of the Bakersfield Californian by UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Californian’s editorial page editor Robert Price points out that cuts to higher education do not just higher tuition for students. They also threaten the competitiveness of one of the state’s key industries, agriculture.

Though many jobs in agriculture are low-paying, many others pay quite well, and that earned wealth is a significant economic driver. That wealth, derived from global competitiveness, rides on the back of research — research carried out by institutions like UC Davis. From harvesting automation to advances in processing, research has helped the Central Valley stay ahead of the global competitive curve, albeit barely.

Ocean drilling oversight agency director to speak April 6

From the John Muir Institute of the Environment:

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will be at UC Davis on April 6 to discuss the recent re-alignment of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Mineral Management  agencies into two agencies, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE, see below) does the regulation and enforcement and a separate agency issues permits. This is an effort by the newly appointed Director to do science based regulation and management of ocean energy. He will be here to discuss this and to discuss the fact that he is authorized to increase staffing of the bureau significantly to accomplish this goal. Please join JMIE to see what is going on.