Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
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Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
Hooks and hot topics for university teachers and students
Curated by Mary Williams
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Making designer mutants in all kinds of model organisms

Making designer mutants in all kinds of model organisms | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Recent advances in the targeted modification of complex eukaryotic genomes have unlocked a new era of genome engineering. From the pioneering work using zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), to the advent of the versatile and specific TALEN systems, and most recently the highly accessible CRISPR/Cas9 systems, we now possess an unprecedented ability to analyze developmental processes using sophisticated designer genetic tools. Excitingly, these robust and simple genomic engineering tools also promise to revolutionize developmental studies using less well established experimental organisms.


Modern developmental biology was born out of the fruitful marriage between traditional embryology and genetics. Genetic tools, together with advanced microscopy techniques, serve as the most fundamental means for developmental biologists to elucidate the logistics and the molecular control of growth, differentiation and morphogenesis. For this reason, model organisms with sophisticated and comprehensive genetic tools have been highly favored for developmental studies. Advances made in developmental biology using these genetically amenable models have been well recognized. The Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 1995 to Edward B. Lewis, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus for their discoveries on the ‘Genetic control of early structural development’ usingDrosophila melanogaster, and again in 2002 to John Sulston, Robert Horvitz and Sydney Brenner for their discoveries of ‘Genetic regulation of development and programmed cell death’ using the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. These fly and worm systems remain powerful and popular models for invertebrate development studies, while zebrafish (Danio rerio), the dual frog species Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis, rat (Rattus norvegicus), and particularly mouse (Mus musculus) represent the most commonly used vertebrate model systems. To date, random or semi-random mutagenesis (‘forward genetic’) approaches have been extraordinarily successful at advancing the use of these model organisms in developmental studies. With the advent of reference genomic data, however, sequence-specific genomic engineering tools (‘reverse genetics’) enable targeted manipulation of the genome and thus allow previously untestable hypotheses of gene function to be addressed.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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First algae powered building constructed in Hamburg, Germany

First algae powered building constructed in Hamburg, Germany | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

A 15-unit apartment building has been constructed in the German city of Hamburg that has 129 algae filled louvered tanks hanging over the exterior of the south-east and south-west sides of the building—making it the first in the world to be powered exclusively by algae. Designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects, and named the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) House, the building demonstrates the ability to use algae as a way to heat and cool large buildings.

To make use of the algae, which the team retrieved from the nearby Elbe river, it was put into large thin rectangular clear cases. Inside, the algae live in a water solution and are provided nutrients and carbon dioxide by an automated system. Each tank was then affixed to the outside walls of the building onto scaffolding that allows for turning the tanks towards the sun—similar to technology used for solar collectors. As the algae grows—mostly in the summer—it provides more shade for the building, helping to keep it cool (and serves as a sound buffer as well). Excess heat that builds up in the water in the tanks is transferred to saline water tanks underneath the building for use later. When the amount of algae growth in the tanks reach a certain point, some is harvested and taken to a processing facility inside the building. There the biomass is converted to biogas which can be burned to provide heat in the winter. Thus, the building makes use of both solar thermal and geothermal energy allowing it to be heated and cooled without using any fossil fuels.

The design and construction of the BIQ has taken three years and has cost approximately €5 million, all funded by Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) as part of the ongoing International Building Exhibition – 2013. The BIQ House is one of 16 projects undertaken by the group, with the goal of proving that cost effective ways of making bio-friendly buildings are available today. To highlight the building, the team has painted its exterior green and has added a giant cartoon-like bubble on one side with the word "Photosynthesis?" in it.

The building is to serve as a test case and will be studied by various architects and engineers from around the world to determine if the design is feasible and if so, to perhaps serve as a model when erecting buildings in other cities. 

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-04-algae-powered-hamburg.html#jCp


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Peter Phillips's curator insight, April 13, 2013 2:27 AM

Creative thinking. Love it! I wonder how much biomass the algae is capapble of producing?