New research shows just how much different regions of the world rely on each other for the foods they know and love – and why it’s time to share This world is really messed up. Especially when it c...
Mary Williams's insight:
Really interesting study on the origins of the foods we eat, and why it's important to maintain the genetic diversity of their relatives, which are often found elsewhere. Good overview and a downloadable PDF.
This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Nancy Hoffman in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by Gerttula et al. This study examines the formation of tension wood, a specialized tissue that forms on the upper side of a fallen woody angiosperm stem that exerts force to vertically reorient the stem. The authors develop a model that leads from gravity perception through hormonal and transcriptional responses to the anatomical changes associated with this unusual and important type of wood.
Researchers from Ghent University succeeded in stabilizing folates in biofortified rice, which can offer a solution to serious health problems caused by folate deficiency in developing countries.
Adults need approximately 400 microgram of folates per day to remain healthy... which is increased to 600 microgram for pregnant women. Folates are abundant in green leafy vegetables (folium is Latin for leaf), such as spinach and legumes (e.g. beans). Most staple crops, such as rice and other cereals, contain very low amounts of this vitamin.
Inadequate folate intake can have severe effects on human health. In addition to certain forms of anemia, folate deficiency in pregnant women can result in an impaired development of the neural tube (the precursor of the spinal cord) of the embryo. These developmental problems often result in spina bifida: the so-called “cleft spine”. Folate deficiency is also associated with Alzheimer disease, cardio-vascular diseases and the development of a range of cancers.
Due to the marginal levels of folate in rice, consumed by about half the world population as sole energy source, folate deficiency is highly prevalent in developing countries. Several studies show that in certain regions of e.g. China and India the occurrence of neural tube defects is at least 10-fold higher than in Western countries.
Vitamins are unstable molecules that degrade easily upon contact with oxygen, light, humidity, increased temperatures and changes in acidity. For this reason, it is important to consume... vegetables and fruit as fresh as possible. A lot of vitamins get lost, not only during food processing and preparation, but also during storage. Evidently, these problems occur in... products that are stored for a longer period, such as rice... These stability problems become more severe in developing countries where the storage in high temperature and high humidity is inevitable.
In 2007, a research team from Ghent University... reported the development of a first generation of rice lines with 100-fold higher folate levels as compared to normal rice... Their new study shows that about half of the folate content in these rice lines degrades after half a year. To tackle this problem, researchers... developed a new rice prototype, in which the folate content remains stable upon long term storage... They were able to stabilize this high folate content in a new rice prototype...
A first strategy comprised the binding of folates with a folate binding protein. This protein is unknown in plants, but well studied in mammals. It occurs in e.g. milk and protects folate from degradation. This is also the way intact folates are passed on from the mother to her infant, to support its development. By expressing a synthetic gene, based on a folate binding protein from bovine milk, in the rice grain, the same principle is applied and folate content remains stable upon long term storage...
Moreover, it is fairly easy to make combinations with other interesting traits, such as the enhancement of other vitamins or certain minerals, such as iron. This technology can also be used in other crops, both cereals (e.g. wheat, sorghum) and non-cereals (e.g. potato, banana)...
The stability issue is often underestimated or even neglected in biofortification programs. It is obvious that not only high, but also stable vitamin levels are important to tackle vitamin deficiencies. Not only does this study describe the effect of long term storage on the folate levels in the first rice prototypes, it also provides an elegant solution to the stability problem. This solution can be applied, in a customized form, to other crops and vitamins and opens the door for awareness and consideration of vitamin stability in future biofortification studies.
To explore increasing concerns about scientific misconduct and data irreproducibility in some areas of science, we interviewed a number of senior biomedical researchers. These interviews revealed a perceived decline in trust in the scientific enterprise, in large part because the quantity of new data exceeds the field's ability to process it appropriately. This phenomenon—which is termed ‘overflow’ in social science—has important implications for the integrity of modern biomedical science.
Mary Williams's insight:
Interesting point of view. I particularly find interesting the comparison between the amount of data in a paper in the 1970s versus today.
Cool - The Sainsbury Lab's Jelle Postma made a video about his research, comparing structures and functions of a city to those of a plant cell, particularly in response to intruders. It's great! https://youtu.be/sCtq3T8eiYc
(I’ll add to this list if you let me know of other botany-biased reviews).
The film opens this week, and the preview reviews have already been quite positive. Several of us scattered around the world are planning to go on Friday 2 October, as a sort of virtual film club. Why don’t you join us? I look forward to hearing the perceptions of the plant science community.
This sounds interesting - "On September 30, the White House will host a live-webcast forum on citizen science and crowdsourcing."
I'd like to learn more about citizen science. Also, I love this photo, captioned "Tiye Garrett-Mills, 17, a citizen scientist from Denver, Colorado, shows her leaf-scanning concept to Astronaut Leland Melvin at the 2015 White House Science Fair" - something about the way the astronaut is staring at the flat bed leaf scanner makes me smile - I can almost hear him saying, "So, you just put the leaf on the scanner?".
How dangerous is wheat? Should people follow celebrity advice to avoid it? Is gluten bad? Are carbs bad? What does wheat offer nutritionally? Does a trend towards wheat-avoidance in rich countries affect nutrition in poor countries?
An interesting interview with Hans Braun (director of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT).
VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling. Thanks to this method, which is based on the knowledge that a set of genes is associated ...
Mary Williams's insight:
It's a summary of an interesting pair of papers in Genome Biology, both open access:
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