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Research news from BBSRC

23 April 2007

The following stories appear in the April 2007 edition of Business, the quarterly magazine of research highlights from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Extreme bacteria could help against parasites
Scientists at the University of Sheffield are teaming up with European colleagues to study the microbe Sulfolobus solfataricus which thrives under extreme conditions – growing in volcanic hot springs. Using an interdisciplinary systems biology approach the scientists are investigating how temperature changes affect the microbe’s protein activity and cellular metabolism. The project, part of the Systems Biology of Microorganisms research programme, could lead to the development of ‘extreme enzymes’ functioning at higher temperatures or new antibiotics against human parasites that undergo temperature shifts when they infect the host.
(Page 13)


Professor Phillip Wright, University of Sheffield, e-mail:

Nano-clutter stimulates stem cell bone growth
Stem cells can be encouraged to develop into bone-forming cells by growing on a disordered surface, opening new ways of promoting bone growth in patients. Scientists at the University of Glasgow have found that stem cells grown on smooth or orderly patterned scaffolding surfaces do not differentiate, but on a surface with controlled disordered features they will develop into bone-forming osteoblasts without the need for chemical stimulants. Implants with imprinted nano-scale disorder patterns could improve hip and knee replacements, reduce healing time and pave the way for biodegradable implants without the need for removal.
(Page 16)

Dr Matt Dalby, University of Glasgow, e-mail:

Poppy stops inbreeding with phosphate
Research at the University of Birmingham has uncovered how the field poppy prevents self-pollination by using a common 'enzyme switch', phosphorylation, as one of its chemical triggers. When a flowering plant is pollinated the germinating pollen develops a pollen tube which grows through the stigma and female tissues to the plant's ovary. By adding phosphate to key enzymes involved in pollen tube development the poppy stops the pollen tube from growing. Better understanding of self-pollination mechanisms could help us regulate plants' self-pollination control, leading to improved breeding programs.
(Page 20)


Professor Vernonica Franklin-Tong, University of Birmingham, e-mail:

Protein tunnel helps bacteria to hide
Bacteria can hide from the immune system under a cloak of carbohydrate molecules, but a research team led by scientists from the University of St Andrews has discovered how the bacteria transport the carbohydrate molecules out through the cell membrane. A hollow protein called Wza functions as a tunnel through the membrane, letting the carbohydrates out onto the surface. The discovery could make it easier to target the carbohydrate transport and treat bacterial diseases like meningitis.
(Page 21)

Professor James Naismith, University of St. Andrews, e-mail:


Notes to editors

These stories all appear in the April 2007 issue of BBSRC Business . For copies please contact the BBRSC Media Office.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382