Farming, Cheese, Chewing Changed Human Skull Shape

The advent of farming, especially dairy products, had a small but significant effect on the shape of human skulls, according to a recently published study from anthropologists at UC Davis.

Skull models

David Katz measured specific points on human skull bones (top) to create a wire frame model of the skull and jaw (bottom). Blue dashes indicate changes in skull shape from foragers to dairy farmers.

Put another way, our skulls were changed by the invention of cheese.

“Insect Allies” Enlisted to Protect Maize Crops from Pests

Researchers at UC Davis, the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) at Cornell University, the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University have received a four-year, $10.3 million “Insect Allies” award from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to engineer viruses carried by insects  that can help in combatting disease, drought, and other yield-reducing stresses in maize.

Corn leaf aphids feeding on maize. The VIPER “Insect Allies” project funded by DARPA will study using viruses carried by such insects to make mature maize plants resistant to pests. Photo by Meena Haribal.

DNA Repair Gone Wrong Leads to Cascade of Chromosome Rearrangements

Homologous Recombination Can Cause More Breaks As It Fixes Them

The traditional view of cancer is that a cell has to sustain a series of hits to its DNA before its defenses break down enough for it to turn cancerous. But cancer researchers have also found that cells can experience very rapid and widespread DNA damage that could quickly lead to cancer or developmental defects.

Now researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that these complex chromosomal rearrangements can be triggered in a single event when a process used to repair DNA breaks, homologous recombination, goes wrong. The work is published Aug. 10 in the journal Cell.

Swirling Quark-Gluon Plasma is the Swirliest Fluid Ever

STAR detector at Brookhaven

The Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC (STAR) detector is used to search for signatures of the quark-gluon plasma, a form of matter that filled the early universe. (Brookhaven National Laboratory)

The soup of fundamental particles called the quark-gluon plasma can swirl far faster than any known fluid – faster than the mightiest tornado or the superstorm that is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

The results, published Aug. 3 in the journal Nature, come from a new analysis of data from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

UC Davis Joins DARPA-funded “Safe Genes” Program

Initiative Aims to Support Responsible CRISPR Gene Editing

By Trina Wood

The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last week announced the Safe Genes program to explore innovative genetic techniques to support bio-innovation and combat biological threats. The effort, supported by a $65 million grant from DARPA over four years, aims to harness gene editing tools in a safe, responsible manner to maximize the benefits of these technologies while minimizing their inherent risks.

Aedes aegypti carries yellow fever, Zika and other viruses. (CDC photo)

Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment Breaks Ground

A special groundbreaking was held today (July 21) deep underground in South Dakota. Scientists, engineers and guests turned the first shovelfuls of the 800,000 tons of rock that will be excavated to build the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. The cavern will house a giant detector for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

The goal of DUNE is to better understand neutrinos and their role in the evolution of the universe, including why our universe is made of matter and not antimatter. DUNE will also be able to detect neutrinos from deep space, emitted by supernovae or black holes.

Not All “Good Fats” Are Created Equal

Could too much linoleic acid be making us sick?

By Diane Nelson

There are good and bad fats, nutritionists say. But not all polyunsaturated fats, the so-called good fats, are created equal. A food chemist at UC Davis is exploring whether eating too much linoleic acid—a type of polyunsaturated fat found mainly in vegetable oils—can cause chronic inflammation, headaches, and other health problems.

Food such as salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids may be healthier than foods with some vegetable oils. (RafalStachura/Getty Images)

UC Davis Launches Cross-Campus Microbiome Initiative

By Ana Lucia Cordova-Kreylos

The UC Davis Office of Research this week (July 10) announced the launch of the Microbiome Special Research Program (SRP), designed to leverage and build upon the broad and deep expertise in microbiome science across the university.

“UC Davis has incredible breadth and depth in microbiome research with over 100 laboratories actively pursuing projects with links to agriculture, environment, energy and human and animal health,” said Cameron Carter, interim vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “The decision to invest in a platform to empower these teams was obvious given our strength in these areas and our potential to charter new frontiers that address some of our world’s most pressing issues.”

Microbes Could Bring Tea to California

Key to Tea’s Benefits May Be in the Soil

By Becky Oskin

Tea has long been linked to human health benefits like preventing cancer and heart disease. But with hundreds of chemical compounds hidden in tea leaves, it is unclear which substances have the strongest effects.

The slew of “healthy” chemicals in tea varies with the variety of plant, how and where it is grown, and how the leaves are processed. Even soil bacteria contribute to a plant’s chemical profile, including its color, taste and aroma.

Podcast: Melting Ice and the Quasi Liquid Layer

Water ice is peculiar stuff: Even below freezing, when it should be solid, it has a quasi-liquid layer on the outside. That’s what makes ice slippery. In this month’s Three Minute Egghead podcast, UC Davis chemist Davide Donadio describes his recent research looking at the surface of ice and what it has to do with clouds and air pollution.

https://soundcloud.com/andy-fell/melting-ice

Computer simulation of ice

Computer simulation of the surface of ice shows how layers melt in steps (Credit: Davide Donadio)

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Related news story: Ice Surface Melts One Step at a Time