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New study reveals how some chickens got striped feathers

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Coucou de Rennes, a French breed with the characteristic sex-linked barring phenotype. Photo Hervé Ronné, Ecomusée du pays de Rennes.

 

Birds show an amazing diversity in plumage colour and patterning. But what are the genetic mechanisms creating such patterns? In a new study published in PLOS Genetics, Swedish and French researchers report that two independent mutations are required to explain the development of the sex-linked barring pattern in chicken. Both mutations affect the function of CDKN2A, a tumour suppressor gene associated with melanoma in humans. Research in pigmentation biology has made major advances the last 20 years in identifying genes controlling variation in pigmentation in mammals and birds. However, the most challenging question is still how colour patterns are genetically controlled. Birds are outstanding as regards the diversity and complexity in colour patterning. The study published today has revealed the genetic basis for the striped feather characteristic of sex-linked barring. One example of this fascinating plumage colour is the French breed Coucou de Rennes. The name refers to the fact that this plumage colour resembles the barring patterns present in the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). The sex-linked barring locus is on the Z chromosome. (In chickens as well as in other birds the male has chromosomes ZZ while females have ZW).

 

Archaeogenetic findings unlock ancestral origins of Sardinians

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Maria Pala's findings unlock ancestral origins of Sardinians

The University of Huddersfield’s Sardinian researcher Dr Maria Pala investigates the origins of her homeland ancestors 8,000 years ago THE island of Sardinia is remarkable for the fact that an exceptionally high proportion of the population is seemingly descended from people who have occupied it since the Neolithic and Bronze Age, between 8,000 and 2,000 years ago. For centuries after that, they had little interaction with mainland Europe. Now, University of Huddersfield researcher Dr Maria Pala has taken part in a project that has helped to unlock the genetic secrets of her Mediterranean homeland. One of the findings is that some modern Sardinians could have evolved from people who colonised the island at an even earlier period, the Mesolithic. Dr Pala - whose first degree was from the University of Sassari in her native Sardinia – is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a member of its Archaeogenetics Research Group. The group is led by Professor Martin Richards and includes Dr Francesca Gandini as Research Fellow.

 

Control pest fungi in an environmentally friendly way

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The photo shows an infected wooden pole that is ultimately destroyed by a copper-tolerant fungus.

The St. Gallen-based Empa biotech spin-off, MycoSolutions AG, has developed a new fungal product that improves the soil and controls pest fungi in an environmentally friendly way. Wooden poles remain in use much longer, leading to cost savings of millions for operators. A "Proof-of-Concept" is now available for the integrated wood preservation method. In Europe, some 30 million wooden poles are used by telecommunications companies and electricity utilities. Every year, hundreds of thousands of these poles have to be replaced due to the occurrence of copper-tolerant, wood-destroying fungi. This results in millions in terms of costs. The problem is likely to worsen in the future, since the copper fixation agent chromium, (which is carcinogenic in a certain chemical form), and the wood preservative boron, are restricted by law. In addition, the authorisation for Switzerland will expire in 2019. In Germany, even stricter regulations have already been put in place. Since the use of boron has largely been discontinued, in certain regions the defects appear early, after only six to eight years and the wooden poles have to be replaced for safety reasons.

 

Girls are better at masking autism than boys

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Girls with autism have relatively good social skills, which means that their autism is often not recognised. Autism manifests itself in girls differently from in boys. Psychologist Carolien Rieffe and colleagues from the Autism Centre and INTER-PSY (Groningen) report their findings in scientific journal Autism. Information about autism in girls is scarce. What we know about autism is mainly based on research among boys and men. That can be a problem, says Leiden Professor of Development Psychology Rieffe: ‘If we take the clinical picture for boys with autism as the standard, there's a good chance that autism in girls won't be picked up.' To change this, Rieffe and her colleagues examined how autism manifests itself in girls.

 

Diagnosing cancer: new process for identifying biomarkers established

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Scientists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have established a process for identifying biomarkers for the diagnosis of different types of cancer. With the aid of a specific type of infrared (IR) spectroscopy, the researchers applied an automated and label-free approach to detect tumour tissue in a biopsy or tissue sample. Unlike with label-based processes, such as are currently deployed by pathologists, the tissue remains unmodified. This, in turn, facilitates detailed protein analyses in the next step. Studying tissue samples from patients who suffered from lung or pleural cancer, the researchers identified protein biomarkers that are typical of the respective subtype of cancer. The team of the research consortium “Protein Research Unit Ruhr within Europe” (PURE) has published their report in the journal “Scientific Reports”.

 

A new leak detection surveillance system tested in France

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Aerial view from WADI first test flights

 

The first test phase of the WADI project has been successfully completed. During the month of February 2017 WADI partners ONERA and SCP tested the innovative airborne water leak detection surveillance service developed by the project. A Busard airplain equipped with hyper-spectral and infrared cameras flew over the facilities of Canal de Provence (SCP), in the South-East of France, and recorded images of the irrigation network including buried ductile iron pipes in three locations: Rians (close to Aix en Provence), Valtrède (Martingues) and Cabardelle (Salon de Provence). The three flights provided high quality images in the spectrum of IR (band III, between 8000 and 12000 nm), SWIR (between 1400 and 3000 nm) and VNIR (between 400 and 1400 nm). ONERA, scientific coordinator of the WADI project, is currently processing the images in order to define the most efficient wavelength among the 416 collected for the detection of soil humidity. This test will lead to the design of a measurement strategy for future campaigns. In the next few weeks, SCP will release controlled leaks in view to a second test phase (WADI -2), scheduled for the end April 2017.

 

http://www.waditech.eu/NewsEvents/A-New-Leak-Detection-Surveillance-System-Tested-In-France.kl

 

 

Bio-based materials facing the challenges of the construction industry

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Isobio Panel discussion

The use of bio-based materials is often met with scepticism from architects, insurers and contractors in the construction industry, which has led to slow market uptake. This scepticism generally results from a lack of adequate training and support with regard to regulatory frameworks. This was the backdrop of the ISOBIO workshop, held 22 March in Brussels where the project team met with representatives from Earth Building UK and Ireland, BC architects & studies, the ECO-SEE project and the German Association for Building with Earth. The aim was to identify the levers for faster adoption of bio-based material in the construction sector.

 

Electronic control to ensure photovoltaic systems always work at maximum power

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The researcher Oscar Barambones behind a solar panel at the University of the Basque Country (Nuria González / UPV/EHU)

 

Researchers at the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country have managed to maintain the maximum power point of solar panels despite changes in irradiation and load. The Advanced Control Group of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Systems Engineering and Automation has developed a control system designed to ensure that photovoltaic generators always work at their maximum power point by adapting them in terms of the level of irradiance received from the sun and the load connected to the system. This constitutes an improvement in the efficiency of photovoltaic generators with respect to current control systems, although it also requires the use of more powerful processors and elements and therefore more expensive ones.

 

Two new mechanisms for herbicide resistance found in Palmer amaranth

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Palmer amaranth infestation

 

Palmer amaranth is a nightmare of a weed, causing yield losses up to 80 percent in severely infested soybean fields. It scoffs at farmers’ attempts at control, having evolved resistance to six classes of herbicides since its discovery in the United States 100 years ago. And now, scientists have discovered it has two new tricks up its sleeve. About a year ago, a group of researchers discovered Palmer is resistant to the herbicide class known as PPO-inhibitors, due to a mutation—known as the glycine 210 deletion—on the PPX2 gene. “We were using a quick test that we originally developed for waterhemp to determine PPO-resistance based on that mutation. A lot of times, the test worked. But people were bringing in samples that they were fairly confident were resistant, and the mutation wasn’t showing up. We started to suspect there was another mechanism out there,” says University of Illinois molecular weed scientist Patrick Tranel.

 

New research into meningitis bacteria by Kingston University experts could hold key to developing improved vaccines

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Dr Ruth Griffin in the laboratories at Kingston University

 

Kingston University London scientists have completed the genome sequence for a deadly strain of the bacteria that causes meningitis and septicaemia – a breakthrough which could lead to improved vaccines to help prevent its spread. Meningococcal infections are the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the United Kingdom, a life-threatening disease that poses a continuing threat worldwide. With growing fears around the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, understanding why certain strains don't respond to vaccines could prove vital in helping reduce the number of global deaths from the disease. The Kingston University London team focused on meningococcal B (menB) strains, which have historically proven problematic to vaccinate against. As part of their work examining how bacteria respond to vaccines, the researchers have now been able to determine the complete DNA sequence of the genome for a particular strain called L91543.

 

Tiny plankton wields biological ‘Gatling gun’ in microbial Wild West

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Close-up of Polykrilos kofoidii. Photo: Urban Tillmann.

 

Researchers have obtained an unprecedented view of the ‘ballistic’ weaponry of planktonic microbes, including one that can fire projectiles as if wielding a Gatling gun. “We think of plankton as the tiny alphabet soup of the ocean, floating around passively while larger organisms eat it,” says biologist Gregory Gavelis, who lead the study while a researcher at the University of British Columbia (UBC). “But some planktonic microbes, like dinoflagellates, are predators and have developed incredible defensive and prey capture mechanisms.” Until now, how dinoflagellates acquired and fired these projectiles, called extrusomes, was unclear. Gavelis and colleagues studied two types of dinoflagellates: Polykrikos kofoidii and Nematodinium sp. They were able to capture the first 3D views of the microbes’ interior and determined Polykrikos launch a harpoon-like structure to snag their prey, then tow it in. Nematodinium, on the other hand, discharge the contents within a ring of capsules, like a Gatling gun.

 
 
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Scienceonline: Autorizzazione del Tribunale di Roma n 228/2006 del 29/05/2006 Periodicità quotidiana - Pubblicato a Roma - V. A. De Viti de Marco, 50 - Direttore Responsabile: Guido Donati.

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