Research  Spring 2011

Chemists Make Discovery that May Lead to Treatment Possibilities for Alzheimer's, Diabetes, and other Diseases

UC Santa Barbara scientists have made a discovery that has the potential for use in the early diagnosis and eventual treatment of plaque-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Type 2 diabetes. Their work is published in a recent issue of Nature Chemistry.

The amyloid diseases are characterized by plaque that aggregates into toxic agents that interact with cellular machinery, explained Michael T. Bowers, lead author and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Other amyloid diseases include Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and atherosclerosis.

UC Santa Barbara Scientists Involved in NASA Discovery of Earth-Size Planets


The very first Earth-size planets have been found by NASA and two UC Santa Barbara scientists, Tim Brown and Avi Shporer. Five of the planets are located in a habitable zone (a zone where water could be present on the planet) outside our solar system and are orbiting a star that is cooler than our sun. The team of scientists also discovered an additional six planets orbiting a sun-like star. The discoveries were made using Kepler, a space telescope, and were part of NASA's Kepler mission. Further observations must be made of the planets to determine if they are planetary candidates.

Genome of Water Flea Discovered to Contain Largest Number of Genes Recorded; UCSB Scientists Contributed to International Team Effort

The water flea - Daphnia pulex - has the largest inventory of genes ever recorded for a sequenced animal, according to a new study in the journal Science by 69 co-authors. An international team effort to sequence the genome of the water flea included work by UC Santa Barbara biologists. Daphnia is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. The study found that it contains more than 31,000 genes. By comparison, humans have only about 23,000 genes. In light of the findings in the paper, Daphnia has emerged as a model organism for the new field of Environmental Genomics, which aims to better understand how the environment and genes interact. This includes building research tools for investigating the molecular underpinnings of key ecological and evolutionary problems.

Scientists Study Control of Invasive Tree in Western U.S.


Simply by eating the leaves of an invasive tree that soaks up river water, an Asian beetle may help slow down water loss in the Southwestern United States.

Two scientists from UC Santa Barbara, working with colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have published the first substantive data showing water savings that can result from using Asian beetles for the biological control of tamarisk, an invasive tree of western rivers. The study is now published online and in print in the journal Oecologia.

Tamarisk, also known as saltcedar, is an invasive tree or shrub from Eurasia that occupies more than 1 million acres of riverside habitat in western North America. It displaces native riparian woodlands, reduces habitat quality for wildlife, exacerbates erosion and sedimentation problems, and is flammable, therefore a wildfire hazard. The tree was introduced into North America over 100 years ago, and has overtaken many Western river systems.

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