When Viruses Actually Save Their Hosts
By studying how viruses work in plants, biologists are coming to see that far more species are symbiotic than purely independent. In other words, viruses can confer benefits on plants.
What's the Latest Development?
By examining strands of RNA, cousins of DNA, biologists at Pennsylvania State University are discovering an entirely new and beneficial side to plant viruses. Most people rightly understand viruses as nasty vehicles for ill health that cause recognizable symptoms of disease. But another class of virus exists. Called persistent viruses, these foreign bodies are passed on from one generation to the next and can confer beneficial adaptations on their host organism. A recent study found that viruses help one species of plant to be drought resistant, and further experiments with a related virus showed that was true of 15 other plant species, too.
What's the Big Idea?
Virus research is helping to cause a broad shift in the biological sciences as researchers come to see more and more organisms as symbiotic, i.e. reliant on other organisms for survival, rather than purely independent. "In the human case the symbionts are gut bacteria that help to process food, and also to regulate physiology." The research may also have profound implications for genetic engineers trying to manufacture drought and disease-resistant crops. "Instead of trying to improve the crops’ own genes they should be looking at the crops’ viruses and...actually infecting plants with new viral strains rather than doing everything in their power to keep crops virus-free."
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It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.
- Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
- Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
- Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
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