Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Weekly BioNews 10 - 17 Mar 2008

- Trash today, ethanol tomorrow

March 11, 2008 12:09 AM

University of Maryland research that started with bacteria from the Chesapeake Bay has led to a process that may be able to convert large volumes of all kinds of plant products, from leftover brewer’s mash to paper trash, into ethanol and other biofuel alternatives to gasoline.

That process, developed by University of Maryland professors Steve Hutcheson and Ron Weiner, is the foundation of their incubator company Zymetis, which was on view today in College Park for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and state and university officials.

"The new Zymetis technology is a win for the State of Maryland, for the University and for the environment,” said University of Maryland President C.D. Mote, Jr. "It makes affordable ethanol production a reality and makes it from waste materials, which benefits everyone and supports the green-friendly goal of carbon-neutrality.

- Crop Scientists Discover Gene That Controls Fruit Shape

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2008)

Crop scientists have cloned a gene that controls the shape of tomatoes, a discovery that could help unravel the mystery behind the huge morphological differences among edible fruits and vegetables, as well as provide new insight into mechanisms of plant development.

Tomatoes with SUN gene turned on and knocked out.

The gene, dubbed SUN, is only the second ever found to play a significant role in the elongated shape of various tomato varieties, said Esther van der Knaap, lead researcher in the study and assistant professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster.

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- All eyes and ears on the corn genome

March 14, 2008 04:41 PM

A consortium of researchers led by the Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., announced today the completion of a draft sequence of the corn genome.

In the fall of 2005 the NSF, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), awarded $32 million to two projects to sequence the corn genome. The goal of the project led by the Washington University GSC is to develop a map-based genome sequence for the B73 inbred line of corn.

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- Scientists identify new longevity genes

March 12, 2008 11:48 PM

Scientists at the University of Washington and other institutions have identified 25 genes regulating lifespan in two organisms separated by about 1.5 billion years in evolutionary change. At least 15 of those genes have very similar versions in humans, suggesting that scientists may be able to target those genes to help slow down the aging process and treat age-related

conditions. The study will be published online by the journal Genome Research on March 13.
The two organisms used in this study, the single-celled budding yeast and the roundworm C. elegans, are commonly used models for aging research. Finding genes that are conserved

between the two organisms is significant, researchers say, because the two species are so far apart on the evolutionary scale -- even farther apart than the tiny worms and humans. That, combined with the presence of similar human genes, is an indication that these genes could regulate human longevity as well.

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