MCDB neuroscientists document some of the first steps in the process by which a stem cell transforms into different cell types. How do neurons become neurons? They all begin as stem cells, undifferentiated and with the potential to become any cell in the body. Until now, however, exactly how that happens has been somewhat of a scientific mystery. New research conducted by UCSB neuroscientists led by MCDB professor Ken Kosik has deciphered some of the earliest changes that occur before stems cells transform into neurons and other cell types. Working with human embryonic stems cells in petri dishes, postdoctoral fellow Jiwon Jang discovered a new pathway that plays a key role in cell differentiation. The findings appear in the journal Cell.
Diet, exercise, a good night’s sleep — all sound recommendations for mitigating one’s risk for everything from heart disease to diabetes and, as it turns out, Alzheimer’s. The neurodegenerative condition affects an estimated 5.3 million people in the United States alone — and that number that is sure to grow as the population continues to age. But several simple strategies may help some stave off the disease, according to a new book by MCDB neuroscientist Kenneth S. Kosik. Spelling out what you can do to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s, “Outsmarting Alzheimer’s” offers dozens of effective health “prescriptions” that are easy to implement.
What if polycystic kidney disease (PKD) could be combatted with a strategy as simple as dieting? Such a finding would surely be welcome news to the 12 million people worldwide with the genetic disease. New research from UC Santa Barbara suggests that reducing food intake may slow the growth of the cysts that are symptomatic of PKD, an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys. A study by MCDB professor Thomas Weimbs and colleagues has demonstrated that in mouse models, a modest decrease in food intake resulted in substantially diminished cyst growth. The findings appear in the American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology.
The next great technological advance in smartphone screens and solar cells could come from an unexpected source — giant clams. New research from the lab of MCDB professor Daniel Morse shows some species of these large bivalves produce their white coloration via color-mixing techniques akin to those used in reflective displays. Appearing in the journal Optica, the study focuses on two species of giant clam and the symbiotic photosynthetic algae with which they cohabitate. Iridescent cells on the inside edge of the clams’ shells where the algae live produce a dazzling array of colors, including blues, greens, golds and — more rarely — white, which the animals mix in different ways.
A research paper published in September 2015 by MCDB professor Mike Mahan and his team was selected as one of the top papers of the year in the journal EbioMedicine. The title of the paper is "Host-dependent Induction of Transient Antibiotic Resistance: A Prelude to Treatment Failure” and the two joint first authors are Jessica Kubicek-Sutherland and Douglas Heithoff. MCDB professor Jamey Marth also contributed to this study.
In an important step toward creating a practical underwater glue, researchers led by MCDB professor Herb Waite have designed a synthetic material that combines the key functionalities of interfacial mussel foot proteins, creating a single, low-molecular-weight, one-component adhesive. Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are used as model organisms for studying a variety of physiological functions. The fly tongue includes 68 so-called “gustatory receptors” (GRs) that play important roles in sensing sugars as well as bitter compounds. Nonetheless, determining which combination of GRs contributes to detecting a particular noxious compound remains difficult because they are composed of many subunits. Now, MCDB’s Craig Montell and colleagues have identified three fruit fly GRs required for a response to the noxious amino acid L-canavanine. The principal nonprotein amino acid of certain leguminous plants such as clover and alfalfa, L-canavanine is used as an insecticide and is toxic to fruit flies. The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.
Physiological processes in the body are in large part determined by the composition of secreted proteins found in the circulatory systems, including the blood. Each of the hundreds of proteins in the blood has a specific life span that determines its unique range of abundance. In fact, measurements of their quantities and activities contribute to many clinical diagnoses. However, the way in which normal protein concentrations in the blood are determined and maintained has been a mystery for decades. Biomedical scientists led by MCDB professor Jamey Marth have now discovered a mechanism by which secreted proteins age and turn over at the end of their life spans. Their findings, which shed light on a crucial aspect of health and disease, appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An interdisciplinary team lead by MCDB professor Mike Mahan discovered an unexpected resistance mechanism in pathogenic bacteria that may warrant changes in the way antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed. Their findings appear in the journal EBioMedicine.
An animal’s ability to perceive light incorporates many complex processes. Now, researchers in Craig Montell’s lab in the MCDB department have used fruit flies and mice to make novel discoveries about sensory physiology at both cellular and molecular levels that are important for light processing. Their most recent findings, which improve the scientific understanding of the signaling cascade necessary for phototransduction — the process by which light is converted into electrical signals in the photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye — appear today in the journal Cell Reports.