About Egghead

Egghead is a blog about research by, with or related to UC Davis. Comments on posts are welcome, as are tips and suggestions for posts. General feedback may be sent to Andy Fell. This blog is created and maintained by UC Davis Strategic Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.

Changes In Breast Milk Sugars Impact Babies’ Health And Growth

By Pat Bailey

A UC Davis-led study of nursing mothers in The Gambia shows how environment changes breast milk content

In a newly published study, UC Davis researchers and their colleagues, paint the picture of an elegant web of  cause-and-effect that connects climate, the breast milk of nursing moms, gut microbes and the health of breast fed infants.

The research is part of a long-running. cross-disciplinary project at UC Davis studying milk and its role in nutrition. For example, last year UC Davis scientists and colleagues at Washington University St. Louis worked with both children and animal models to show how milk compounds could alter gut microbe composition and affect health. UC Davis researchers also led a consortium to study the “milk genome,” the collection of all genes related to producing milk.

UC Davis’ McClellan Nuclear Reactor, At 27 One of “Newest” in U.S.

By Lisa Howard

On January 20, 1990, when the nuclear reactor at McClellan Air Force Base achieved its first sustained nuclear reaction known as “criticality,” it was the newest reactor in the United States.

Six years later, when the Tennessee Valley Authority launched the Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station, the nuclear reactor at McClellan was relegated to second newest. McClellan would go on to retain that ranking for another two decades until this past October when the Tennessee Valley Authority launched Watts Bar Unit 2.

New Steps in the Meiosis Chromosome Dance

Where would we be without meiosis and recombination? For a start, none of us sexually reproducing organisms would be here, because that’s how sperm and eggs are made. And when meiosis doesn’t work properly, it can lead to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and developmental disorders.

Neil Hunter’s laboratory at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences is teasing out the complex details of how meiosis works. In a new paper published online Jan. 6 in the journal Science, Hunter’s group describes new key players in meiosis, proteins called SUMO and ubiquitin and molecular machines called proteasomes. Ubiquitin is already well-known as a small protein that “tags” other proteins to be destroyed by proteasomes (wood chippers for proteins). SUMO is a close relative of ubiquitin.

Looking For Martians At McLaughlin Reserve

By Kathleen Wong

In a universe with billions upon billions of planets, narrowing the search for extraterrestrial life is no mean feat. One approach seeks analogs of otherworldly conditions here on Earth, and characterizes the mineralogy, geochemistry and biology of these areas.

A NASA team is drilling at McLaughlin Natural Reserve. By studying soils and microbes in this area, they hope to learn about similar environments on Mars. (NASA photo)

A NASA team is drilling at McLaughlin Natural Reserve. By studying soils and microbes in this area, they hope to learn about similar environments on Mars. (NASA photo)

Wheat Gene Database is Tool for Improved Yield and Nutrition

By Ann Filmer

Plant scientists and wheat breeders now have a new tool to develop more nutritious and productive wheat varieties: A public online database of 10 million mutations in wheat genes. Scientists at UC Davis and three institutions in the UK created the database, which will allow scientists worldwide to study the function of every gene of wheat. The research will be reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

UC Davis Plant Sciences Professor, Jorge Dubcovsky is working to improve the yield and nutritional value of wheat, one of the world's most important crops.

UC Davis Plant Sciences Professor, Jorge Dubcovsky is working to improve the yield and nutritional value of wheat, one of the world’s most important crops.

World’s First Total-Body PET Scanner Takes A Big Step Forward

The UC Davis-based EXPLORER consortium, which aims to build a revolutionary total-body PET (positron emission tomography) scanner, has announced the selection of two industry partners to help build the prototype device. They are United Imaging Healthcare America, a North American subsidiary of Shanghai United Imaging Healthcare, and SensL Technologies of Cork, Ireland.

Positron emission tomography, or PET, scanning uses short-lived radioactive tracers to show how organs and tissues are functioning in the body, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans mostly show anatomy. PET scans are widely used to diagnose and track a variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Multivitamins And Early Nurturing Boost Child Development

By Pat Bailey

For all the moms who obediently popped their prenatal vitamins during pregnancy while  wondering if the supplements could actually benefit their babies, an international research group has the answer, and it’s a resounding “yes.”

In fact, in a recent study the researchers discovered children whose mothers took multi-micronutrient supplements during pregnancy were advanced in cognitive abilities by as much as one full year of schooling by age 9-12 years.

The study, conducted in Indonesia and published Jan. 16 in the journal Lancet Global Health, also indicated that other essential ingredients in the recipe for smarter kids include early-life nurturing, happy moms, and educated parents.

Cybersecurity in 2017: What next after the 2016 Election hack?

2016 saw an unprecedented use of cyberattacks during a U.S. presidential election. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Russian government directed theft of emails and release of information in an apparent attempt to influence the election.

What does this mean for the coming year? I asked Professors Karl Levitt, Matt Bishop, Hao Chen, and Felix Wu of the UC Davis Computer Security Laboratory for some thoughts about cybersecurity in the wake of the 2016 election hack. Here’s what they had to say.

Modeling Shows How Social Networks Help Animals Survive

By Mike Gil

Applications like Facebook and Twitter show us, on a daily basis, the power of social networks to influence individual behavior. While wild animals do not surf the web, they are connected with other individuals in shared landscapes, and “share information” through their behavior. But how does this information affect surrounding animals?

The formation of multi-species groups, such as these fish feeding on a coral reef, may be fostered by information sharing. (Heather Hillard)

The formation of multi-species groups, such as these fish feeding on a coral reef, may be fostered by social information sharing. (Heather Hillard)

Gelatin supplements, good for your joints?

A new study from Keith Baar’s Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences and the Australian Institute of Sport suggests that consuming a gelatin supplement, plus a burst of intensive exercise, can help build ligaments, tendons and bones. The study is published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Connective tissue and bone injuries are common in both athletes and the elderly, and interfere with peoples’ ability (and enthusiasm) for exercise, whether they are an elite athlete or just trying to lose weight and maintain fitness and flexibility. Steps that can prevent injury and enhance recovery are therefore of great interest.