High-impact Research from the School of Life Sciences

Issued: Thu, 25 Jan 2018 10:52:00 GMT

The School of Life Sciences brought 2017 to a close in style with high-impact research publications coming from the laboratories of Drs Sofie Spatharis, Craig Daly and Joanna Wilson; encompassing studies of microscopic algae, asthma and modeling viral-associated cancer mechanisms.

Having set a precedent earlier in the year, with a publication in PNAS from Dr Joel Milner’s lab, work from Sofie Spatharis’ lab and colleagues from Texas A&M University and the University of the Aegean, also published in PNAS, explains how phytoplankton species thrive in high numbers in diverse ecosystems.

Phytoplankton is a common denominator of all aquatic life, where it fuels the ocean food chains and removes huge quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide. By adapting a “resource-competition model”, the work reveals how cyclic events in nature (such as tides and seasonality) can drive high biodiversity among phytoplankton, through the assemblage of multi-species clusters.

The study explains a long standing conundrum (known as the paradox of the plankton) of why there are more phytoplankton species than limiting resources would otherwise suggest possible. Read the paper here.

Also in PNAS, Craig Daly and colleagues from universities in Jordan and the USA (including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Atlanta) examined the activation of beta-adrenoreceptors in airway epithelium to model asthma.

The image shows an individual airway in the lung, bright yellow revealing the distribution of beta-adrenoreceptors in the inner (epithelial) cells.Using an elegant imaging approach, the beta-adrenoreceptors could be directly visualized on the lung epithelial cells (see image); revealing the importance of signaling from these receptors in the development of asthma. A clearer understanding of how asthmatic pathology develops and is controlled, will permit a more informed approach to treatment. Read the paper here.

Two papers in Nature Communications and Oncogene (in press, pending) from Joanna Wilson’s lab, the former with colleagues at the University of Paris, France, reveal a new oncogenic mechanism employed by a protein encoded by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the first human virus found to be causal in cancer development.

The work shows that a critical protein encoded by the virus, termed EBNA1, employs novel mechanisms to goad cellular genes into action, leading to oncogenesis. Identification of these new pathways sets the scene for novel therapeutic approaches in combatting the virus and its associated diseases. Read the paper here.

These publications are testament to the quality of research on going in the School of Life Sciences.

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Image caption: The image shows an individual airway in the lung, bright yellow revealing the distribution of beta-adrenoreceptors in the inner (epithelial) cells.