Posts tagged: Biology

Eggs are for science, not just for Easter


Eggs are a staple part of our diet. But is there more to them than being tasty and full of protein? We take a look at their potential uses, and the recent findings researchers are frying up. No eggs were harmed during the writing of this blog.

Easter approaches, and with Easter we usually find eggs. You won’t be hearing about eggs of the chocolate variety, however. Just regular old shelled eggs. Boring? Not exactly. We crack open our journals and dish out recent egg-based research that bring new insights into the potential uses of eggs.

Cracking down on allergies

Could eggs hold the key to gaining control over allergic reactions? Research findings are suggesting there’s some potential here.


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Genetics link found in search for sweet strawberries

Holding strawberries

This post by Madeleine Martiniello looks at findings from two new papers on strawberries published in BMC Genomics today, and is republished with kind permission from The Conversation.

If you’ve ever bitten into a strawberry and wondered why it doesn’t taste as sweet or as good as others in the punnet, you could blame the fruit’s genetics.

Two studies, published today in BMC Genomics, found that the distinct flavour of strawberry has been linked to a specific gene, present in some varieties of the fruit – but not in others.

The gene FaFAD1 controls a key flavour volatile compound in strawberries called gamma-decalactone, which is described as “fruity”, “sweet” or “peachy” and …

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Weapons of low-mass destruction: small ORFs in the uncharted parasite genome

bmc biol

In our genomes, there is a whole host of genes hiding in plain sight. These genes are not included in major genome annotation efforts and are widely ignored in the literature, even though in some cases they have been conserved for as long as 550 million years.

So how have these genes remained hidden? There is a short answer to this. Literally so: the genes are short.

Scientists and computer algorithms that hunt for genes expect their prey to take the form of long sequences of hundreds of nucleotides, and quite simply ignore or discard candidates that do not meet this criterion.

But they are perhaps unwise to do so, suggest a number of recent reports, including an article in BMC

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Farm animals are more intelligent than they seem

Credit to Brian Squibb (35)

Following on from our post last month about research into the intelligence of goats, we asked one of the authors of the article, Elodie Briefer, to tell us more about why she studies goats and what is was like to carry out the research. Here’s what she had to say…

My main research interests are vocal communication and cognition. I carried out my PhD in the Bioacoustics team of Paris South University, on the song of skylarks. After my PhD, I moved to Queen Mary University of London to work with Alan McElligott on mother-offspring vocal recognition and vocal ontogeny in goats, and later on, on goat personality and emotions.

Expanding the breadth of research on cognition

After a few …

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Donating normal breast tissue – a gift to cancer researchers

Susan Clare

In this guest post, Dr Susan Clare of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and co-author of a recent paper published in Breast Cancer Research, writes about the importance of research on the ‘normal’ breast and what’s needed to allow this research to take place.

Our limited understanding of the developmental biology and genetics of normal breast tissue is a barrier to progress in understanding the causes of breast cancer and to developing successful prevention strategies and improved treatments. This oft repeated refrain is found in the periodic reviews of the state of breast cancer research and dates back at least to the NCI’s Report of the Breast Cancer Progress Review Group (1997).

Tissues banks and other initiatives mean there

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Goats, the boffins of the farmyard

Figure 2

Goats are well known for their high adaptability and ability to survive in inhospitable and food scarce  environments. It turns out that this behavioural flexibility has played a key role in the evolution of complex cognition in goats, which are much more intelligent than had previously been thought. Goats are able to quickly learn to solve complex tasks – at least when the reward is food related! – and even remember how to solve these tasks up to ten months later.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University London tested the intelligence of 12 goats living at Buttercup Sanctuary for Goats using a food box cognitive challenge (essentially a box containing food which the goats were trained to open …

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The subway of the brain – Why white matter matters.

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When we think of the brain, our first thought is of grey matter: the squishy yellowy-grey folded tissue that makes up the cortex. But what about the seemingly useless white matter lurking underneath, with its tougher exterior and long pale branches? There’s more to it than meets the eye…

What is white matter?

White matter has taken the back seat in the past. With apparently no use, white matter was ignored whilst grey matter was probed and inspected. It wasn’t long before white matter rose to recognition for its important role in the brain.

But what is white matter? You could refer to it as the subway of the brain – connecting different regions of grey matter in the cerebrum …

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It’s in your genes: a new method for cancer drug response prediction

source: flickr; (CC BY)

One of the greatest challenges of current medicine is predicting how a patient will respond to a given drug. In an ideal world, where time, money and – most importantly – the patient’s well-being and survival are not an issue, we would simply either keep trying different treatments until hitting the jackpot, or perhaps harvest the patient’s cells and try a range of treatments in vitro. The problem is, of course, that the world is not ideal and such in vitro testing is usually not practical and, in general, especially in the case of many of the most debilitating diseases, patients often don’t have time to waste.

It is then not really surprising that many researchers have been …

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Methylating much?

source: flickr, calciostreaming (CC BY)

Our readers might have gotten distracted this month by discussions on whether it is right or wrong for Illumina to limit researchers’ use of their kit, and so we are here to help you regain focus: after a deliberately thematic issue on the RBPome, we have just published an accidentally thematic issue on DNA methylation.

Useful tools

This month Genome Biology publishes three tools that many working on DNA methylation should find quite handy.

Mark Robinson (of edgeR, which he published together with another of this issue’s authors, Gordon Smyth) and company present a new method, BayMeth, for the effective quantification of data generated with DNA-methylation-capture-seq techniques (MBD-seq, MeDIP-seq and so on). So if you …

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The Animal Kingdom’s 5 Unromantic Couples

valentines day post2

Do you feel you’re drowning in the dating scene? Have you suffered a string of failed relationships or flings? Is love a distant dream you are beginning to lose faith in? Well, cheer up, because if you think your life is lacking in romance, you should see how awful the animal kingdom can be. Here we show you how shallow, promiscuous, strange, and utterly dreadful creatures are when it comes to love. There’s the chance to vote for your favourite couples too (more details at bottom):

Strawberry Dart Frog – can’t handle being far apart:

“You’re, like, my perfect guy – you’re only 2 centimetres away from me!”

In a world where everyone is perfect, who would you pick? This is a dilemma …

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