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How a Microbial Biorefinery Regulates Genes

The protein PcaV in the presence of protocatechuate:

A group of researchers, including graduate student Jennifer Davis, have unlocked the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind a part of the process to break down plant biomass into the precursors of biodiesel or other commodity chemicals. These might one day be used to produce alternatives to petroleum. The potential of this “biorefinery” technology is limited by the fact that most microorganisms cannot break down lignin, a highly stable polymer that makes up as much as a third of plant biomass. Streptomyces bacteria are among few microorganisms known to degrade and consume lignin.

Girl Rising: In Many Countries, Education is for Boys Only

Edwidge Danticat '93 MFA tells the story of a girl from Haiti in Holly Gordon '93's documentary, Girl Rising. This film shows how education transformed the lives of ten girls from ten different developing countries. It will debut on March 8 and air on CNN this spring. Read more.

Size of lunch dictates force of crunch

Big bite may not be best bite:

Nicholas Gidmark, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is part of a team to determine that even in the same animal, not all bites are the same. A new study finds that because the force in a muscle depends on how much it is stretched, an animal’s bite force depends on the size of what it is biting. The finding has direct implications for ecology and evolution.

New Findings: Higher Injury Odds for Older Motorcyclists

A study by Tracy L. Jackson, a graduate student in Epidemiology was published this week in the journal Injury Prevention, which found that older bikers are three times as likely to be severely injured in a crash as younger riders. The percentage of older bikers on the road is quickly rising. Nationwide, from 1990 to 2003, the number of motorcyclists over 50 rose from roughly 1 in 10 to about 1 in 4. Read more about increasing accidents in an older population.

Samoan obesity epidemic starts at birth

Check-up at the well baby clinic, American Samoa:

Postdoctoral researcher Nicola Hawley is part of a team to study the increasing prevalence of obesity in American Samoa. The results recently published in the journal Pediatric Obesity may not be confined to Polynesian populations, said the authors. American Samoa’s prevalence of obesity in infancy may be the harbinger of a slower-moving trend in the same direction in developed nations.

Mitochondrial Mutations: When the Cell’s Two Genomes Collide

Understanding a genetic double whammy:

Plant and animal cells contain two genomes: one in the nucleus and one in the mitochondria. When mutations occur in each, they can become incompatible, leading to disease. Graduate student, Marissa Holmbeck is an author on the paper that hopes to increase the understanding of such illnesses. She worked on a team with scientists at Brown University and Indiana University to trace one example in fruit flies down to the individual errant nucleotides and the mechanism by which the flies become sick.

A Better Way to Culture Central Nervous Cells

A more dependable scaffold for neural cell culture:

Kwang-Min Kim's research on a protein associated with neuron damage in people with Alzheimer’s disease suggests a better method of growing neurons outside the body that might then be implanted to treat people with neurodegenerative diseases. Kim is a biomedical engineering graduate student and lead author the study, which will soon be published in the journal Biomaterials.

Aging Cells Lose Their Grip on DNA Rogues

A younger cell’s game:

Graduate students Steven Criscione and Edward Peckham and postdoctoral researcher Marco De Cecco are working alongside others at Brown to discover how parasitic strands of genetic material called transposable elements attack chromosomes and how cells lose the ability as they age to defend against these attacks. De Cecco is the lead author of a study a with professor John Sedivy of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry.

Hertzberg to Lead Pawtucket Foundation

Aaron Hertzberg, a student in the Taubman Center’s Master of Public Affairs program, has been named executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for downtown, riverfront, and transportation improvements for the city of Pawtucket.

Brown Executive Scholars 2013

Seven doctoral and three master's students will explore university administration as part of the third cohort of the Brown Executive Scholars Training program. The 12-week program helps to prepare doctoral and advanced master's students for administrative careers.