$5.66 Million CIRM Grant Strengthens Researchers’ Spina Bifida Work

By Brady Oppenheim

UC Davis researchers have received a $5.66 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) supporting their research on stem-cell therapies for spina bifida.

Professor Aijun Wang of the UC Davis Departments of Biomedical Engineering and of Surgery and Professor Diana Farmer, chair of the UC Davis Department of Surgery, will use the CIRM funding to continue their decade-long research efforts exploring stem-cell therapies that show promise for both animals and humans with the congenital condition.

Biomedical engineer Aijun Wang is collaborating with UC Davis surgeon Diana Farmer on research to treat spina bifida with stem cells in both human and animal patients. (UC Davis Health)

Microbial Genomics Gold Found in Old Data

By Scott Edmunds

There’s gold in those old databases. Analyses of genomic data often miss a large amount of information, but genome scientists at UC Davis have now created an automated analysis pipeline to dig out this hidden information. 

C. Titus Brown is associate professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Genome Center.

In a new study published in the journal GigaScience the researchers mine a huge marine microbial dataset from the Microbial Transcriptome Sequencing Project (MMETSP) to find new results.

Uncovering How Dengue, Zika Viruses Manipulate Hosts

A new, holistic approach to biology is giving researchers new insights into how the Dengue and Zika viruses attack their hosts and, in the case of Zika, affect brain development. Published Dec. 13 in the journal Cell, the work may open up new ways to think about treating virus infections or mitigating their effects.

Priya Shah in lab

Priya Shah’s work in systems biology spans the Colleges of Engineering and of Biological Sciences. The approach is giving new insight into how dengue and Zika viruses attack human cells. Credit: David Slipher, College of Biological Sciences

Rapid Genetic Evolution Linked to Lighter Skin Pigmentation in a Southern African Population

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Populations of indigenous people in southern Africa carry a gene that causes lighter skin, and scientists have now identified the rapid evolution of this gene in recent human history.

The gene that causes lighter skin pigmentation, SLC24A5, was introduced from eastern African to southern African populations just 2,000 years ago. Strong positive selection caused this gene to rise in frequency among some KhoeSan populations.

Brenna Henn

UC Davis anthropologist Brenna Henn and colleagues have shown that a gene for lighter skin spread rapidly among people in southern Africa in the last 2000 years.

Long-Lost 17th-Century Poet Gets Digital Treatment

By Jeffrey Day

For a long time, analyzing a literary work consisted of creating a “definitive edition,” which might be supplanted a decade or two later. Or maybe never. English professor Frances Dolan is part of a project that offers a new approach for literary analysis, one better aligned with the high-speed information exchange possible today.

Hester Pulter’s poems were recently discovered in a university library. (University of Leeds Brotherton Collection)

How Plant Cells Build The Wall

By Ann Filmer

Animations and models of plant cell division are part of a new project investigating how plant cells form their distinctive walls.

Cell division is a fundamental aspect of life. Without cell division, living organisms do not grow. The last step of cell division, also called cytokinesis, is uniquely different in plants from that in animals and fungi due to the presence of cell walls in plants.

This 4D time sequence imaging from Georgia Drakakaki’s lab at UC Davis shows how new plant cell walls form between divided plant cells. Green, vesicles forming cell wall and red, cell membranes.

New Technology Targets Citrus Greening Disease

By Ann Filmer

Louise Ferguson, a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and with UC Cooperative Extension, is co-principal investigator in a new $3.4 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, “Development of an automated delivery system for therapeutic materials to treat HLB-infected citrus.”

The four-year project is based at University of Florida, with collaborators at UC Davis/UC Cooperative Extension and Texas A&M University. The researchers are developing a new automated technology to deliver bactericides into the vascular system of citrus trees through numerous tiny punctures in the tree trunk and scaffold branches. The bactericides will then be transported through the tree’s hydraulic conducting system.

Do You Have a Healthy Personality? Researchers Think They Can Tell You

By Karen Nikos-Rose

What are the most psychologically healthy personality traits? Scholars have been interested in characterizing the healthy personality as long as they have been trying to understand how people differ from one another. Researchers from the University of California, Davis have identified a healthy personality prototype in a recent study using a contemporary trait perspective.

Associate Professor of psychology Wiebke Bleidorn studies personality change.

Thermal Transistor Handles Heat at the Nanoscale

By Andrew Myers

You’ve felt the heat before — the smartphone that warms while running a navigation app or the laptop that gets too hot for your lap.

The heat produced by electronic devices does more than annoy users. Heat-induced voids and cracking can cause chips and circuits to fail.

Schematic

Schematic of the experimental thermal transistor. A slice of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) sits on a piece of silicon dioxide, bathed in a solution of lithium ions. (Sood et al, Nature Communications)

Visualizing “Unfurling” Microtubule Growth

Living cells depend absolutely on tubulin, a protein that forms hollow tube-like polymers, called microtubules, that form scaffolding for moving materials inside the cell. Tubulin-based microtubule scaffolding allows cells to move, keeps things in place or moves them around. When cells divide, microtubule fibers pull the chromosomes apart into new cells. Cells with defects in tubulin polymerization die.

Microtubule fibers are hollow rods made of much smaller tubulin subunits that spontaneously assemble at one end of the rod, but exactly how they do this inside the crowded environment of living cells has been a mystery. Now researchers at UC Davis have uncovered the mechanism that puts these blocks in place, illustrated in a new animation.