Immune proteins spread a net to trap bacteria

A “natural antibiotic” protects the body against bacteria by tangling them in a net, not poking holes in them, a team led by UC Davis Health System researchers has found.

It’s an entirely new mechanism of action for defensins, an important group of molecules known to bolster the body’s defenses, and provides important clues to inflammatory bowel diseases, especially Crohn’s disease. The work is published tomorrow, June 22 in the journal Science.

“During the past 25 years, researchers have learned a lot about the biological function of defensins, but the role of HD6, a particular molecule that is highly expressed in the intestines, was a mystery,” said Charles Bevins, professor of microbiology and immunology at UC Davis.

Merging cluster cosmologists merge (sort of)

(Contributed by Will Dawson, Physics. Will’s blog is here.)

We were just awarded a grant from the University of California High-Perfomance Astrocomputing Center to establish a UC Davis – UC Irvine collaboration to study merging clusters, with the aim of determining the nature of dark matter. Dark matter is one of the great outstanding mysteries.

Galaxy clusters are vast objects made up of stars (in galaxies), dark matter and gas. When two galaxy clusters run into each other, how the different types of matter behave can give clues about the nature and properties of dark matter.

Another Titan Arum corpseflower set to bloom

“Tammy,” a Titan Arum or corpseflower, is getting ready to bloom at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory greenhouse. This will be the eighth successful Titan Arum bloom at UC Davis since 2003, but the first for this plant, grown from seed at UC Davis.

Conservatory director Ernesto Sandoval estimated the plant would be fully in bloom later this week, possibly over the weekend.

Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) plants come from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The plant spends most of its life as an underground stem called a corm. Once a year, the plant puts out a single big green leaf that lasts about six months. Some years, it puts out a flower shoot instead.

Video: Jon Eisen on our microbial cloud, poo tea and diabetes

Jonathan Eisen of the UC Davis Genome Center was invited to speak at the recent TEDMED meeting in Washington D.C. and video of his talk has now been posted online.

While much of medicine has obsessed over cleanliness and removing bacteria from our environment, “We are covered in a cloud of microbes that mostly do us good,” Eisen says. “We are a teeming ecosystem of microorganisms.”

Eisen uses genome sequencing technology to study this microbial cloud — too few or difficult to grow by conventional means, their signatures can be captured from their DNA.

Watching the transit of Venus

Quite a crowd showed up in Lot 2 yesterday afternoon to watch the transit of Venus. Geology graduate student John Peterson had set up his telescope, with a special solar filter, and invited others to come and watch.

Peterson, in white panama, with his telescope.





Many people took pictures through the telescope with cameras and cell phones. Here’s mine:







Peterson lending his filter to CBS-13 so that they can get a live shot of the transit.