Research & Discovery

Engineers Invent Machine to Shake up UC Davis’ COVID-19 Testing

UC Davis engineers have invented shaking and inversion machines that are a critical part of the UC Davis Genome Center’s award-winning asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. These machines, designed and built by biological and agricultural engineering (BAE) development engineer Dennis Sadowski, professor Stavros Vougioukas and postdoctoral researcher Zhenghao Fei in just six weeks, help treat saliva samples so they can be tested for the virus.

Researchers Identify a Potentially Safer Approach to Opioid Drug Development

Opioids are powerful painkillers but their use is hindered because patients become tolerant to them, requiring higher and higher doses, and overdoses can cause respiratory depression and death. A recent study from researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience contradicts existing thinking about how opioid drugs cause tolerance and respiratory depression, and suggests a new, balanced approach to developing safer analgesics. The work was published July 13 in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Why Sunflowers Face East

Sunflowers face the rising sun because increased morning warmth attracts more bees and also helps the plants reproduce more efficiently, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The results were published Aug. 9 in New Phytologist.

“It’s quite striking that they face east,” said Stacey Harmer, professor of plant biology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences and senior author on the paper. “It’s better for them to face east, as they produce more offspring.”

Evolutionary Thinking

We watch a ball as it falls into our glove. We hear a strange sound in another part of the house and listen intently. In neuroscience, the act of narrowing our senses in response to an environmental event is called “attention,” and it is understood that when we attend to a stimulus, we lose the ability to focus on other surrounding inputs.

Interrupting the Development of Cancer Cells

Think of chromosomes as nature’s shoelaces. Built from DNA, these thread-like structures carry and ferry the genetic information necessary for life. To maintain genetic integrity, chromosomes possess protective structures located at their ends called telomeres. These telomeres are like the plastic tips of shoelaces, preventing the genetic thread from unraveling as cells continuously divide.

Drought Changes Root Microbiome

Drought can have a lasting impact on the community of microbes that live in and around roots of rice plants, a team led by UC Davis researchers has found. Root-associated microbes help plants take up nutrients from the soil, so the finding could help in understanding how rice responds to dry spells and how it can be made more resilient to drought. The work was published July 22 in Nature Plants.

$1 Million Keck Foundation Grant Backs Research to "Build a Brain"

A team of scientists from UC Davis and Rice University are starting small as they begin to figure out how to build an artificial brain from the bottom up.

Celina Juliano, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Jacob Robinson of Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering have won a $1 million Keck Foundation grant to advance the team’s synthetic neurobiology effort to define the connections between neurons and muscles that drive programmed behaviors in living animals.

Developing and Testing Genome Editing Technology for Human Health

We might one day be able to treat diseases or inherited disorders by rewriting parts of the genetic code in our own cells. The National Institutes of Health established the Somatic Cell Genome Editing consortium, with funding of $190 million over six years, to advance research in genome editing, develop tools and test them in animal models before advancing to human clinical trials.

Start Here to Make a Protein

Structure of mRNA Initiation Complex Could Give Insight Into Cancer and Other Diseases

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K., have solved the structure of the complex formed when mRNA is being scanned to find the starting point for translating RNA into a protein. The discovery, published Sept. 4 in Science, provides new understanding of this fundamental process.

New Cryo-Electron Microscope Powers Biological Sciences Discovery

Chancellor Gary S. May and Mark Winey, dean of the College of Biological Sciences, recently cut the ribbon on a new cryo-EM facility in Briggs Hall. The $2.5 million microscope is open to all campus researchers. It can collect thousands of images a day to assemble into movies showing how proteins and other biomolecules do their work.