Extracellular biophysical cues have a profound influence on a wide range of cell behaviors, including growth, motility, differentiation, apoptosis, gene expression, adhesion, and signal transduction. Cells not only respond to definitively mechanical cues from the extracellular matrix (ECM) but can also sometimes alter the mechanical properties of the matrix and hence influence subsequent matrix-based cues in both physiological and pathological processes. Interactions between cells and materials in vitro can modify cell phenotype and ECM structure, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Interactions between cell and matrix mechanics in vivo are of particular importance in a wide variety of disorders, including cancer, central nervous system injury, fibrotic diseases, and myocardial infarction. Both the in vitro and in vivo effects of this coupling between mechanics and biology hold important implications for clinical applications.
The genome comprises the entire set of DNA instructions for each cell in all living things. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the hereditary material found in humans and other organisms. The genome contains all the information needed to build any individual living thing, and for it to grow and develop.
What do peaches, cherries, and almonds all have in common? They are all delicious, nutritious, and loved by consumers around the world. They all grow on trees. And all of them may disappear from our supermarket shelves because of a persistent and destructive replant disease called Armillaria or oak root rot. Armillaria root rot is caused by fungi commonly called ‘honey fungi’, because of the golden colour of the mushrooms that sprout from the base of infected trees. However, the mushrooms signal internal devastation for the tree.
Diagnosing viral infections, such as COVID-19, can be challenging. The most accurate way to identify a virus is by detecting its genetic information, but viruses are merely a tiny packet of genes encased in a protein shell. When a virus has infected a host, such as a human body, identifying viral genes amongst the host’s genes is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, scientists have a trick – to make copies of the needle, until needles outnumber the hay straws. This is called nuclear acid amplification, which forms the basis for the gold-standard PCR test for COVID-19. Dr Xiushan Yin and his colleagues at the Shenyang University of Chemical Technology have been further refining this amazing technology to help tackle COVID-19.
Dr Alexandra (Sasha) Pavlova – Professor Paul Sunnucks | Genetic Rescue Saves Species from Extinction
When a species’ habitat shrinks, its populations decline. Individuals that persist in remaining islands of habitat have no choice but to breed with their relatives, reducing the health and fertility of their offspring. Researchers at Monash University seek to increase genetic diversity in small populations, helping them rebound. They have established ‘genetic rescue’ methods to save many endangered species from extinction, collaborating with wildlife agencies to test solutions.
Before the first living organisms were brought into being, molecules were already moving and changing. Many energy sources, including light and heat from the sun, were available to provide the energy needed to drive chemical reactions. Mechanical energy, which describes the energy of motion, was also readily available before life’s emergence. Dr Helen Greenwood Hansma from the University of California in Santa Barbara explores how mechanical energy could have driven the processes that gave rise to early life.
Many scientific concepts are applicable to multiple disciplines and across spatial scales, from the microscopic to the global. As such, scientists from different disciplines must communicate effectively – through a shared scientific language – for effective collaboration and scientific advancement. With this aim, Dr Laura Tipton of Chaminade University and her colleagues from the University of Hawai’i investigate the history of ecological terminology, in order to work towards building a common lexicon that bridges ecology and microbiome science.
Historically, controlled forest burning in western North America created a forest patchwork that limited the size and severity of wildfires. Over the last 200 years, however, fire suppression created large areas of dense tree stands. As droughts and temperatures increase due to climate change, these dense forests are now at increasing risk from extremely severe wildfires.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, we face challenges that require innovative and strategic responding. Dr Aldo Bonasera at Texas A&M University in the USA and Laboratori Nazionali del Sud, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy, and Dr Hua Zheng at the School of Physics and Information Technology, Shaanxi Normal University in China, have taken a mathematical approach to compare the current COVID-19 pandemic with the Spanish Flu. Their findings have led to important recommendations for managing the current pandemic through vaccination programmes.
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