In the ancient Japanese art of origami, paper must be folded precisely and following a specific order to create the desired result — say, a crane or lotus flower. It’s a complex pursuit that requires keen attention to detail and utmost accuracy. An equally precise biological process in living cells gives rise to proteins, the large biomolecules essential for life. Seeking to illuminate a piece of this biological puzzle, an international team of scientists, including UC Santa Barbara cell biologist Diego Acosta-Alvear, examined the role of a central UPR component, a stress sensor protein called IRE1 (inositol-requiring enzyme 1), in atherosclerosis. The researchers found that blocking IRE1 with a small molecule prevented the progression of atherosclerosis in mice. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
MCDB is pleased to welcome two new faculty to the department, Dr. Carolina Arias and Dr. Diego Acosta-Alvear.
MCDB neuroscientist Kenneth Kosik has been studying the brain for decades. His UC Santa Barbara neurobiology lab focuses on the evolution of synapses that connect neurons and the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, Kosik’s team is interested in the underlying molecular basis of plasticity and how protein translation at synapses affect learning. In a new paper published in the journal Neuron, Kosik explores the nature of brain plasticity and proposes a theory about how neurons learn.
Nobel-prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote of a mythical town in the middle of the jungle whose residents suffer from a mysterious affliction that erases their memories. Today, in a region of Colombia called Antioquia, reality appears to be imitating fiction -- in a way that may answer questions for all of us.An extended family in Colombia with a genetic mutation causing Alzheimer’s may help scientists prevent the disease someday. Lesley Stahl reports on the groundbreaking study, featuring University of California, Santa Barbara's Dr. Ken Kosik.
Three UC Santa Barbara faculty members have been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2016 among them MCDB faculty member Kathleen Foltz. Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Foltz was cited among her peers in the association’s section on biological sciences “for distinguished contributions to the developmental and cell biology of fertilization and egg activation, and in mentoring, outreach, education and undergraduate research in STEM fields.” Foltz’s research focuses on molecular- and cellular-level activity and signaling at the moment of fertilization and oocyte activation. She has been named a Searle Scholar and a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellow. She also is the recipient of UCSB’s Plous Award, the Chancellor’s Award for contributions to undergraduate research and the Distinguished Teaching Award. Foltz also holds an appointment at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, and is interim dean of the campus’s College of Creative Studies.
UC Santa Barbara has placed among the top 25 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Global Universities rankings. The rankings, which are based on institutions’ academic research and reputation, evaluate 1,000 universities — up from 750 last year — across 65 countries. UCSB is ranked number 24 overall, and number 7 among public universities in the United States.
In classic experiments on frogs, scientists found that the amphibians’ urge to escape from dangerously hot water decreased significantly when the water temperature rose very gradually. In fact, sensitivity of many animals to temperature — including humans — is similarly affected by the rate of increase. Hoping to shed light on this phenomenon, MCDB professor Craig Montell and graduate students Junjie Luo and Wei Shen developed fruit fly larvae as a model to reveal a mechanism through which the animal shows different behavioral responses to fast and slow rises in temperature. The researchers discovered that a rapid temperature change caused a writhing response in fruit fly larvae. However, when the temperature was raised gradually, far fewer animals reacted. Montell and coworkers then demonstrated that the activation of the temperature sensor in the brain, TRPA1, was not simply a function of the absolute temperature but rather depended on the rate of temperature change.
The team’s findings appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
In its 2017 listing of the “Top 30 Public National Universities” in the country, U.S. News & World Report has ranked UC Santa Barbara number 8.
Among the “Best National Universities” ranking, which includes both public and private institutions, UCSB placed number 37. Within the University of California system, only UC Berkeley and UCLA ranked above UCSB. Other UC campuses in the Top 30 include Irvine, Davis and San Diego.
In addition, UCSB placed number 13 among public universities in the “Least Debt” section of the magazine’s ranking of student debt load at graduation. UCSB’s College of Engineering is ranked number 18 among public universities on the U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Programs at Engineering Schools Whose Highest Degree is a Doctorate.”
The magazine has just released its annual college rankings online at usnews.com/colleges. The print edition of “Best Colleges 2017” guidebook can be purchased online beginning today or in stores Oct. 4
MCDB professor Michael Goard and his colleagues studying how the brain uses perception of the environment to guide action are working with mice to map the neural circuits responsible for transforming sensation into movement. In a new paper, published in the journal eLife, Goard and colleagues make progress in mapping brain activity in mice during simple but fundamental cognitive tasks. Although a mouse’s brain is much smaller than a human’s, remarkable structural similarities exist. The mouse brain is composed of about 75 million nerve cells or neurons, which are wired together in complex networks that underlie sophisticated behaviors.
Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind’s most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says MCDB professor and neuroscientist Kenneth S. Kosik. In fact, as he points out in an article published in the journal Science — along with coauthors Terry Sejnowski, Marcus Raichle, Aaron Ciechanover and David Baltimore — supporting fundamental cell biology research into neurodegeneration may be the key to accelerating understanding of neurodegenerative and so-called “incurable” diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.