Identification and comparison of modern and fossil crocodilian eggs and eggshell structures.

Marzola M., Russo J., & Mateus O. (2014). Identification and comparison of modern and fossil crocodilian eggs and eggshell structures. Historical Biology, ahead-of-print, 1-19.

Identification and comparison of modern and fossil crocodilian eggs and eggshell structures.

The eggs of three modern crocodilian species, the Philippine Crocodile, Cuvier’s Smooth-fronted Caiman or Musky Caiman, and American Alligator or Common Alligator, were examined in detail to gain a better understanding of anatomy and microstructure to improve identification. The observations began with the ornamentation of the outer surface and continued to the microscopic structure of the eggshell. This led to interesting patterns from current to fossil Crocodylomorpha eggs since the Jurassic period and identification of a previously unknown egg ornamentation, the rugosocavate type. One shared characteristic between crocodiles and some groups of dinosaurs and birds is the pore system, called angusticaniculate, made of straight and subcircular pores.

The Dominant Dinosaur of Northeast Italy Appears Not to be the Same as the Rest of Europe

Marzola M., & Dalla Vecchia F.M. (2014). New dinosaur tracks from the Dolomia Principale (Upper Triassic) of the Carnic Prealps (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, NE Italy). Bollettino della Società Paleontologica Italiana, 53, i-xviii.

New dinosaur tracks from the Dolomia Principale (Upper Triassic) of the Carnic Prealps (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, NE Italy)

In the past 15 years, ten large rocks have been discovered that contain footprints in northeast Italy. Researchers in this study identified these as being from the late Triassic period between 200 and 220 million years ago by studying the rocks in the area. By studying the size and anatomy of these new tracks, scientists attribute these to Anchisauripus, a three-toed dinosaur that walked upon the toes of its two feet. However, these dinosaurs are not the most common European skeletal remains of the period and may have been the dominant trackmakers in the tidal flats of northeast Italy during the period.

Marco Marzola

3D Cover for the Heart Which Can Both Measure and Send Signals

Lizhi Xu, Sarah R. Gutbrod, Andrew P. Bonifas, Yewang Su, Matthew S. Sulkin, Nanshu Lu, Hyun-Joong Chung, Kyung-In Jang, Zhuangjian Liu, Ming Ying, Chi Lu, R. Chad Webb, Jong-Seon Kim, Jacob I. Laughner, Huanyu Cheng, Yuhao Liu, Abid Ameen, Jae-Woong Jeong, Gwang-Tae Kim, Yonggang Huang, Igor R. Efimov & John A. Rogers (2014); 3D multifunctional integumentary membranes for spatiotemporal cardiac measurements and stimulation across the entire epicardium; Nature Communications vol 5;

3D multifunctional integumentary membranes for spatiotemporal cardiac measurements and stimulation across the entire epicardium

Studies of the heart need ways of getting very detailed mapping of and sending signals to the heart surface in three dimensions. Previous ways of measuring the heart only used 2D sheets (like a piece of paper) which needed to be glued or sewn in to get reliable, long-term connections. With this method we used 3D scanning and 3D printing to create stretchable sleeves shaped just like the heart being studied. This sleeve is used to attach sensors and electronics for reading and sending signals to the heart. This sleeve completely wraps around the heart like Spandex, and because it fits so well it allows accurate way to measure and send heart signals while the heart is beating. Sensors include monitors for pH, temperature, and mechanical strain while signalling devices include ways to send electrical, heat, and light signals. The computer parts are made of plastic, metal, silicon, metal oxides, gallium arsenide, and gallium nitride (all used in making computer circuits) and are used in making the sensor and signal devices mentioned before. Experiments done outside the body show that the sleeve works correctly for heart research and therapy.

Synthetic Biology Turns Yeast into Micro Fuel Machines Using Parts From Brown Algae

Maria Enquist-Newman, Ann Marie E. Faust, Daniel D. Bravo, Christine Nicole S. Santos, Ryan M. Raisner, Arthur Hanel, Preethi Sarvabhowman, Chi Le, Drew D. Regitsky, Susan R. Cooper, Lars Peereboom, Alana Clark, Yessica Martinez, Joshua Goldsmith, Min Y. Cho, Paul D. Donohoue, Lily Luo, Brigit Lamberson, Pramila Tamrakar, Edward J. Kim, Jeffrey L. Villari, Avinash Gill, Shital A. Tripathi, Padma Karamchedu, Carlos J. Paredes, Vineet Rajgarhia, Hans Kristian Kotlar, Richard B. Bailey, Dennis J. Miller, Nicholas L. Ohler, Candace Swimmer & Yasuo Yoshikuni (2014) Efficient ethanol production from brown macroalgae sugars by a synthetic yeast platform.
Nature 505, 239–243 Doi:10.1038/Nature12771
Efficient ethanol production from brown macroalgae sugars by a synthetic yeast platform

As civilizations are advancing, more and more energy production is needed to keep pace. Research efforts are trying to develop novel sources of alternative energy. One such energy source is ethanol not produced from food sources like corn in efforts to keep world food prices stable. Using new technology and techniques, a new scientific field has developed, synthetic biology. In synthetic biology, scientists identify the necessary components from one or more organisms to achieve some goal and add the genes for these components in another organism that is easier to work with like yeast. In the current study, researchers identified a gene from the brown algae Asteromyces cruciatus that placed in the yeast genome would allow them to import a simple carbohydrate into the cell for conversion to ethanol. Testing the efficiency of this new yeast strain, researchers found it successfully converted all major carbohydrates of brown algae to ethanol in the absence of oxygen. These findings could have major impacts on the type of feedstock is used to produce second generation ethanol.

How Do Some Bacteria Conduct Electricity?

Reardon, Patrick N. and Karl T. Mueller. (2013) Structure of the Type IVa Major Pilin from the Electrically Conductive Bacterial Nanowires of Geobacter sulfurreducens. J. Biol. Chem. 288: 29260-29266 doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.498527.

Structure of the Type IVa Major Pilin from the Electrically Conductive Bacterial Nanowires of Geobacter sulfurreducens

Some bacteria possess the incredible ability to produce and conduct electricity. This electricity is actually a waste product of their metabolism under certain conditions and is a research focus in the field of bioenergy. A number of these bacteria contain long filaments that protrude from their body called pili (plural of pillus). Without these pili, electrical conductance is drastically reduced. A major mystery is how bacteria are able to conduct electricity over relatively long distances using a long protein structure. Researchers in this study determined the actual protein structure of pilin A, the major protein that connects together like legos to produce the pili. Using a pilus model based upon observation in another bacterium, scientists fit this new structure and determined a proposed mechanism of how electrical charge is conducted. This proposal states that electrons produced as waste within the cell are shuttled out then ‘hop’ across pili via aromatic amino acids (ring-structured R group) positioned along the length of the pilus to some electron acceptor. This new knowledge can help scientists make more efficient microbial fuel cells as a viable alternative fuel source.

How common is Primary Hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) in patients with low bone mass?

Misiorowski, W., & Zgliczynski, W. (2012). Prevalence of primary hyperthyroidism among patients with low bone mass. Advances in Medical Sciences, 57(2), 308-313. doi:10.2478/v10039-012-0062-2

Prevalence of primary hyperthyroidism among patients with low bone mass

The study was looking at a population of 4000 patients that were referred to a clinic in an Eastern European city for diagnosis of bone conditions related to their reporting of symptoms and complaints. The authors explored the merits of using bone density measurements to diagnose Primary Hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). They were able to describe the population in terms of bone density by choosing to only examine the patients who had the lowest bone densities for their ages. Once these patients were established they ran tests on their blood levels for parathyroid hormone and vitamin D levels. They established that 52 patients had PHPT and most of them were women. There were a small number of patients who had severe symptoms. Overall results show a large amount of PHPT with healthy patients and any time a patient presents with low bone mass more testing should be done to rule out other causes of symptoms and results.

Kara Papa

How Do Plants Control Bacteria Inside Root Cells?

Jon Penterman, Ryan P. Abo, Nicole J. De Nisco, Markus F. F. Arnold, Renato Longhi, Matteo Zanda, and Graham C. Walker (2014) doi:10.1073/pnas.1400450111

Host plant peptides elicit a transcriptional response to control the Sinorhizobium meliloti cell cycle during symbiosis

In order for plants to thrive in their environment, many have evolved a win-win relationship with beneficial soil bacteria. Legumes, such as beans, soybeans, and peanuts, attract bacteria in the soil to ‘invade’ their roots. Once inside the root cells (nodules), the plant provides the bacteria nutrients in exchange for the microbe’s special skill; turning nitrogen gas into a useful form for the plant to use in various metabolic pathways. The ability of the bacterial cell to inhabit the interior of a plant cell without being degraded or dividing requires its conversion into a ‘bacteroid’. A burning question about this relationship is how the plant and bacterium form this beneficial coexistence. Researchers previously discovered that the plant cell releases a group of small amino acid peptides (NCR peptides) that were found to act like antibiotics at high concentrations but the affects at lower concentrations caused the bacteria to stop growing but continue to live. In this paper, researchers used a common bacterial species found in nodules, Sinorhizobium meliloti, that had synchronized cell cycles to identify the cellular changes in the presence of sublethal amounts of NCR peptide. They discovered that exposure to small amounts of NCR peptide caused the bacteria to stop dividing and significantly changed the genes expressed within the microbe. Interestingly, these small peptides also caused a stress response in the bacteria similar to responses by pathogens that researchers think is a way for the plant cell to signal the good bacteria of a pathogen invasion. Ultimately, these small peptides regulate which genes are active in the bacteria in order to establish the beneficial relationship.

How Can Bacterial Virulence Be Lessened by a Small Molecule?

Colleen T. O’Loughlin, Laura C. Miller, Albert Siryaporn, Knut Drescher, Martin F. Semmelhack, and Bonnie L. Bassler (2013) 110:17981–17986, doi:10.1073/pnas.1316981110

A quorum-sensing inhibitor blocks Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence and biofilm formation

Quorum sensing is a way a bacterium communicates to the cells around it to regulate behavior of the community as a whole. This process occurs in harmless bacteria as well as pathogens. One such pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, uses quorum sensing to attack its host in a concerted effort by all the cells present and to control how the cells ‘stick’ together once infecting the host. In an effort to prevent P. aeruginosa attack and infection, researchers tested synthetic molecules to identify those which block cells from receiving the attack message. One such molecule, meta-bromo-thiolactone (mBTL), succeeded in blocking the message and protected a roundworm model system and human lung cells from dying due to infection. The paper also discusses how mBTL works at the molecular level. The results from this study could help control complications in cystic fibrosis and hospital infections due to contaminated equipment.