Science Interviews


Sat, 12th May 2012

MicroRNAs in bee brains

Nell Barrie

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Kat -  Another nice bee story that I noticed in the journal Genes, Brains and Behaviour and this is from researchers at Washington University was about the role of microRNAs in bee brains.  The microRNAs are kind of tiny little snippets of RNA.  Itís sort of the message inside our cells.  For a long time, scientists have just thought this was maybe sort junk DNA, didnít really know what it did and now, itís turning out to be very interesting because in bee colonies, bees have different jobs.  They're very stereotyped.  Some bees are worker bees, some bees are nurse bees, obviously you get queen bees, you get drones.  They think that these microRNAs at different times might be responsible for making sure that bees go into the right job.  So, itís not just the genes, the actual genes being switched on and off.  They think that this microRNA is controlling it and itís really fascinating, some of the roles that these microRNAs might have.

Nell -  Yes, itís kind of like career advice for bees in their brain.I think kind of what's weird about this in ways that there is so much we still don't know because clearly, something must be controlling when these little switches are going on and off inside the beesí brains and in other animals too.  We know they have roles in circadian rhythms for example and we just don't really know enough about yet, what they could be doing in human brains for example.  So, it would be really interesting to see more research like this coming out in different species, I think.

Kat -  Yeah, us humans make around 2,000 microRNAs and they started to be implicated in cancer, in neurological disease, so a whole field to be explored.



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