Research  Spring 2012

UC Santa Barbara Researchers Discover Genetic Link Between Visual Pathways of Hydras and Humans


Studying the hydra in both bright and dim conditions, the researchers discovered that bright light actually inhibits the firing of the stinging cells –– possibly because their prey are more active at dusk and after sunset, said Todd Oakley, below, professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. He suggested that light could be acting as “a daily, rhythmic cue” that tells hydra when, and when not, to sting. The linking of the light-sensitive protein opsin to the stinging cells helps explain how hydra can respond to light despite the absence of eyes, the scientists said, because the sensory neurons also contain the ion channels and additional proteins required for phototransduction –– the process by which light is converted to electric signals. Phototransduction in humans occurs in the retina.

Study Jointly Led by UCSB Researcher Supports Theory of Extraterrestrial Impact

impactA 16-member international team of researchers that includes James Kennett, left, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara, has identified a nearly 13,000-year-old layer of thin, dark sediment buried in the floor of Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico. The sediment layer contains an exotic assemblage of materials, including nanodiamonds, impact spherules, and more, which, according to the researchers, are the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth. These new data are the latest to strongly support a controversial hypothesis proposing that a major cosmic impact with Earth occurred 12,900 years ago at the onset of an unusual cold climatic period called the Younger Dryas.

New Study Reveals Gene Expression Networks Underlying Age-Related Macular Degeneration

nanoA new study led by scientists at UC Santa Barbara has identified genes whose expression levels can identify people with age-related macular degeneration, as well as genes that distinguish clinical AMD subtypes. “Not only are these genes able to identify people with clinically recognized AMD and distinguish between different advanced types, some of these genes appear to be associated with pre-clinical stages of AMD,” said Monte Radeke, research scientist with UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute and one of the project leaders. “This suggests that they may be involved in key processes that drive the disease. Now that we know the identity and function of many of the genes involved in the disease, we can start to look among them to develop new diagnostic methods, and for new targets for the development of treatments for all forms of AMD.”

Compiled from UCSB Public Affairs Office

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