Spiderworms, Exploring Vents, Clues to deafness and Bulking up!
Spidersilk from Silkworms
Silkworms have been genetically engineered to spin spider silk proteins, producing a tougher, more elastic silk material.
Farming of spiders for their silk production is challenging due to small production levels and cannibalism within populations. Publishing in the journal
PNAS, Randy Lewis and colleagues from the Utah State University overcame this problem by creating transgenic silk worms containing spider genes for silk elasticity and tensile strength resulting in a composite of worm and spider silk produced in large quantities.
New Species at Antarctic Vents
Unique communities of marine species have been found on the Antarctic sea floor, living in hydrothermal vents off the coast of the East Scotia ridge in the Southern Ocean.
Using remotely operated vehicles, Alex Rogers' team from the University of Oxford discovered new species of yeti crab, stalked barnacles and seven-armed starfish, unseen anywhere else in the world, whilst animals such as tube worms and vent crabs, commonly associated with hydrothermal vents, were nowhere to be seen.
The team suggest the southern ocean may act as a barrier, resulting in a more diverse vent ecosystem globally than previously thought.
New gene target identified for deafness
A new gene identified in mouse models could provide insight into the causes of human deafness.
David Ornitz and colleagues from the Washington University school of medicine in St Louis found that the gene,
named FGF20, which codes for a family of proteins called fibroblast growth factors, was crucial for the formation of outer hair cells - sensory cells needed to amplify sound in the inner ear.
The gene has previously been linked with inherited deafness in humans and could lead to treatments for hearing loss.
The Science behind Bulking Up
And finally, as many of us start the new year with a resolution to workout, the key factors needed for our muscles to grow and bulk up during a workout have been discovered by scientists at the Inserm institute in France.
Working with mice, Athanassia Sotirorpoulos identified the need for serum response factor, or SRF, in working muscle fibres to signal the proliferation of satellite stem cells found within muscle which then grow and fuse to existing muscle fibres resulting in growth.
Muscle was shown not to grow in mice lacking the SRF gene.
The work was published in the current edition of the journal