Plant pathogens like the one that led to the notorious Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's are still the subject of intense research at institutions like the University of California Riverside, as the battle continues between mega-crop farmers and diseases that have learned to infiltrate the plant’s immune system. Just what the genetic mechanism is that allows for that infiltration has remained elusive until recently. Studying the notorious oomycete pathogen Phytophthora in its multiple forms, UC Riverside researchers have identified a crucial step in the disease attack of the cell, namely the activity of virulence proteins in blocking RNA silencing pathways, which leads to immune system compromise. The role of RNA silencing as an important immune component is a new research direction and one that is being pioneered at UCR.
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Tags: University of California, California, CA, Southwest, NSF, genome research, University of California Riverside, Riverside, Southwest Region, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Plant science, UCR, Funding, 2013, 2014
Michigan State University at East Lansing is priming plants to cope with two very different adversaries: hostile insects on Earth and the stressful conditions of space. Rather than furnishing them with armor or a spacesuit, researchers are working at the molecular level in order to make these plants more genetically hardy.
By now you've probably heard of "lab-on-a-chip" technology, where engineers take a lab analysis process that once required, well, a lab, and make it possible to run that analysis on a handheld smartphone device. Results are generated in real time, cheaper, and without bulky equipment. In this case, Michigan State University (MSU) plant pathologists are using the device in a field of vegetables under attack by pathogens.
Pulling material from technical science publications that is directly applicable to the business of science marketplace is sometimes a challenge, however, here is a thought provoking publication by Greirson et al. that addresses something most of us rarely think about.
"Plants are fundamental to all life on Earth. They provide us with food, fuel, fiber, industrial feed stocks, and medicines. They render our atmosphere breathable. They buffer us against extremes of weather and provide food and shelter for much of the life on our planet. However, we take plants and the benefits they confer for granted."
Of the one hundred or so plant research questions posted, the critical 10 appear to revolve around human societies need for survival.
Do you think of chemical engineers as life scientists? How about petroleum engineers? Surely there's nothing biological going on in a tank of gasoline? Not now perhaps, but millions of years ago that black ooze we call crude oil was alive, in the form of plant and animal matter. Hurrying the chemical breakdown of living matter into something we can burn in our cars is the challenge for some of today's brightest chemical engineers who work on turning algae into fuel in an efficient, sustainable green chemistry process.