The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

News Archive

Root decomposition study calls for new experimental methods

Observations made in a new study of root decomposition dynamics to be published by the Ecological Society of America later this year were in some cases directly opposed to classic hypotheses, suggesting that true understanding of the contributions of root turnover to carbon and nutrient cycling requires a fundamental shift in experimental methods.

A team of researchers including Marc Goebel of the Huck Institutes, conducted a 36 month study comparing the decomposition of the first four root orders of four temperate tree species in three classes: white 1st and 2nd order

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Possible new target found in fight against malaria

A team of Penn State researchers has determined the dynamic expression and cellular localization of the PfMYST protein, and provided experimental evidence about its role in transcription regulation, cell cycle progression and DNA damage repair, providing a possible new target in the fight against a drug-resistant and extremely virulent form of malaria.

In the past few decades, Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the most virulent form of malaria, has become increasingly resistant to most commonly used anti-malarial drugs, assisting in a global resurgence of the disease.

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Sequencing chocolate genome helps farmers in the developing world

The sequencing and analysis of the genome for Theobroma cacao, the chocolate tree, has been completed by an international team that included Mark Guiltinan, Siela Maximova, Stephan C. Schuster, John E. Carlson, Zi Shi, Michael Axtell, Zhaorong Ma, and Yufan Zhang of the Huck Institutes. The team sequenced the cacao Criollo type that produces a fine flavored chocolate, using a specimen that was collected in the Mayan mountains of Belize. The identification of various gene families that impact specific plant qualities and disease resistance could lead to accelerated breeding programs which would have a beneficial impact on the economy of many developing countries in which cocoa is of great economic importance.

The research team, led by Claire Lanaud of CIRAD, France, assembled the genome of Theobroma cacao.

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Scientists capture first-ever atomic view of key genetic processes

Using a 3-D visualization method called X-ray crystallography, Song Tan, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology has built the first-ever image of a protein interacting with the nucleosome -- DNA packed tightly into space-saving bundles organized around a protein core. The research, performed at the Penn State Center for Eukaryotic Gene Regulation of the Huck Institutes, is expected to aid future investigations into diseases such as cancer.

As the genetic blueprint of life, DNA must be deciphered or "read," even when densely packed into nucleosomes. The nucleosome is therefore a key target of genetic processes in a cell and a focus of scientific investigations into how normal and diseased cells work.

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Pulsed UV light shows promise in delivering a safer egg

Pulsed UV light has the ability to reduce Salmonella Enteritidis on eggshells by 99.999998%, greatly increasing public food safety, without affecting the quality of the egg, the strength of its shell or damaging its natural protective layer, the cuticle, Penn State researchers, including Ali Demirci of the Huck Institutes, found.

The majority of Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks have been related to the consumption of raw or undercooked eggs or egg-containing foods, so reducing the bacteria that could penetrate the shell is a critical concern for public health.

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Ancient gene family linked to the future of epileptic seizures

A potassium-channel gene belonging to an ancient gene family more than 542 million years old is opening new avenues in epilepsy research, and may one day allow researchers to develop more effective drugs with fewer side effects for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

Timothy Jegla, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, in collaboration with Jeffrey Noebels at Baylor College of Medicine, discovered that mice missing the gene, Kv12.2, have frequent non-convulsive seizures.

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Carnivorous mice spread deadly plague in prairie dog towns

The abundance of the carnivorous grasshopper mouse determines whether or not prairie dog colonies live or die by the thousands from plague. This discovery, reported in a recent study co-authored by Dr. Marcel Salathe, a new member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at the Huck Institutes, may have critical ramifications on understanding plague dynamics in Africa and Asia.

Prairie dog populations in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains have been repeatedly decimated by outbreaks of the plague over the last several decades.

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Faculty appointments in systems and computational genomics

We seek computer and information scientists, social scientists, life scientists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians and biomedical researchers interested in analyzing genomic data, undertaking systems and functional genomics and in applying these results to a broad range of biological problems.
PLEASE NOTE: This faculty search is currently closed

Innovative building of cyber genomics with multiple appointments across the University


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Genetically defective mice shed new light on treating depression

Researchers led by Dr. Bernhard Luscher have characterized a new mouse model of depression that points to a new cause of Major Depressive Disorder in humans. The mice suffer from a genetic deficiency in GABA-A-receptors, and they exhibit hormonal and pharmacological properties indicative of a form of depression known as Melancholic Depression.

People with Melancholic Depression do not respond well to the popular anti-depressant drug Prozac, which acts on the neurotransmitter serotonin, but may be one step closer to relief thanks to these mice.

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Critical metabolic sensor uncovered in the fight against diabetes

Diabetes, A Journal of the American Diabetes Association: Sounak Gupta, Barbara McGrath and Douglas R. Cavener, Department of Biology, The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity

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Beth Shapiro selected as National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Molecular biologist Beth Shapiro has been selected by National Geographic as one of the world's most visionary young explorers.

Molecular biologist Beth Shapiro has been selected by National Geographic as one of the world’s most visionary young explorers.

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PLoS One: Unraveling the Secrets of Down Syndrome?

A surprising and crucial new structural model of complex protein and chromosomal interactions which can lead to Down's Syndrome and similar disorders has been discovered through an innovative method of minichromosome isolation and analysis.

PLoS One: Cohesin Interaction with Centromeric Minichromosomes Shows a
Multi-Complex Rod-Shaped Structure

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Electron Microscopy facility receives new digital camera

Jenoptik digital camera is now available on two optical microscopes in the EM facility.

The Huck Institutes' Electron Microscopy Facility at University Park has obtained a new Jenoptik digital camera for study of microstructu

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PLoS Pathogens: Are poultry vaccines endangering future bird populations?

Attenuated live poultry vaccines are genetically recombining with wild virus strains, setting the stage for unpredictable and challenging future disease outbreaks in wild and domestic bird populations.

Penn State researchers have shown that one form of a live vaccine for Newcastle Disease in poultry has exchanged its genetic materials with at least three wild strains.

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Life sciences research advances rapidly at Penn State

Working to take life sciences research to the next level, progress continues on the Millennium Science Complex which will unite researchers and advance interdisciplinary research.

With the completion of the Millennium Science Complex in 2011, the University will have the most exciting interdisciplinary space inhabited by some of the best researchers in life and materials sciences.

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Nature: Ending the devastation of blight?

Researchers make critical discovery in the ability to manage the potentially disastrous effects of fungal diseases in agricultural settings.

Ending the devastation of blight: researchers make critical discovery

Nature: Seogchan Kang, Professor of Plant Pathology; Sook-Young Park, Postdoc, Molecular Genetics

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9th International Skin Carcinogenesis Conference

Biannual conference coming up in June 2010. Registrations are being taken now.

The International Skin Carcinogenesis Conference (ISCC) is a biannual conference that brings together experts in skin carcinogenesis as well as postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to share research progress on the molecular mechanisms of skin cancer including

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Climate, not humans to blame for musk ox population decline

A team of scientists has discovered that the decline in arctic musk ox populations is a result of a warming climate rather than human hunting.

A team of scientists including Dr.

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WISE honors Huck Graduate Student

Women in the Sciences and Engineering Institute has recognized Christina Ragan for her work in helping women/girls recognize and achieve their potential in STEM fields.

The Women in the Sciences and Engineering Institute have announced their 2010 award recipients. Among the recipients is our own Christina Ragan, graduate student in Neuroscience.

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Christina Ragan wins Sigma Xi grant

Sigma Xi as awarded Christina Ragan a $1,000 (USD) grant to fund her research.

Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, has awarded Christina Ragan a $1,000 (USD) grant to fund her research through their Grant-in-Aid of Research program.

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