Science Podcasts

Naked Genetics episode

Sun, 13th May 2012

The world of top (genetics) models

A comparison of genetically modified (GM) plants and non-GM plants grown in saline conditions: (above) non-GM plants struggling to grow in saline conditions; (below) GM plants thriving in the same conditions. (c) Image courtesy of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG)/University of Adelaide.

This month we’re taking a look at the world of top models - not the kind that won’t get out of bed for less than ten grand, but the model organisms used by researchers all over the world to answer some of the most challenging questions in biology. We’ll also be hearing about the origins of polar bears, the extinction of Tasmanian tigers, fitter frogs with faster-changing genomes and promiscuous bees. And move over Beyonce, because our gene of the month is the curvaceous Callipyge - Greek for beautiful buttocks.

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In this edition of Naked Genetics

Full Transcript

  • 01:15 - Model worms - Professor Jonathan Hodgkin

    When you think of super-models, you may think of skinny, pouting beauties strutting up and down the catwalk. But one of the more recent stars on the modelling scene in the world of genetics research is just over a millimetre long, completely transparent, and you can pop it in th...

  • 08:44 - Polar bear evolution

    What we’re looking at here is how did polar bears evolve to be different from normal bears – brown bears, all kinds of bears that do not live in the Arctic...

  • 10:22 - Tasmanian tiger diversity

    This story's about an animal that's already become extinct, the Tasmanian tiger. This is research that's published in PLoS One by Dr. Brandon Menzies and his team at the University of Melbourne, obviously in Australia where the Tasmanian tiger lived...

  • 11:06 - Giant sex-crazed bees

    This is about giant bees in China and this was published in PLoS One. They're actually looking at isolated colonies of bees on an island off the coast of China and what they were trying to figure out is how these bees cope with being so isolated...

  • 11:55 - MicroRNAs in bee brains

    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....

  • 13:21 - Pigeon navigation

    This is a little bit sad because it’s the kind of crushing of an urban legend. People did use to think that pigeons actually had magnetic beaks and that this acted as a sort of compass, allowing them to do these amazing feats of navigation that we hear about...

  • 14:21 - Breast cancer redefined

    A joint team of researchers from the UK and Canada have rewritten the rule book on defining different types of breast cancer, publishing their findings in the journal Nature this month...

  • 15:09 - Flowers or leaves?

    Scientists at the National University of Singapore have discovered the molecular ‘switch’ that makes plants produce flowers rather than leaves, publishing their results in the journal PLoS Biology...

  • 15:49 - Fitter frogs

    In a paper in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, Juan Santos from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre in the US describes how fitter poisonous frogs have faster-changing genomes...

  • 16:41 - Brain evolution due to fat metabolism

    Scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered evidence showing that the evolution of human brains may have resulted from changes in the genes responsible for fat metabolism...

  • 17:58 - Arabidopsis as a model plant - Dr Sean Cutler

    Now it’s time to take a look at a couple more supermodels from the genetics world - starting with plants. Here’s Sean Cutler, Associate Professor of Plant Cell Biology at University of California, Riverside, explaining why the tiny weedy cress Arabidopsis makes a good model for ...

  • 21:34 - Zebra fish ears - Dr Tanya Whitfield

    Dr Tanya Whitfield and her team at the University of Sheffield are using a rather different model - stripey little zebrafish - to study ear development. The first thing I had to ask was what on earth a zebrafish’s ear looks like.

  • 26:58 - Gene of the month - Callipyge

    Move over Kim Kardashian, because our gene of the month is the curvaceous Callipyge, Greek for “beautiful buttocks”. It was first spotted back in the early 1980s on a farm in Oklahoma, when the farmer noticed some sheep in his flock with particularly big, muscular bottoms.

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