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New discovery at heart of healthy cereals

A new discovery at the University of Queensland could help reduce heart disease and boost nutrition security – the access to balanced nourishment – globally.

Researchers in UQ’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences have identified a new mechanism for how healthy cereals such as oats reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease.

The discovery could lead to ways of boosting the cholesterol-fighting properties of other cereals including wheat.

UQ’s Professor Mike Gidley said the study, funded through the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, revealed new information on the function of beta glucans – a healthy soluble fibre naturally occurring in the cell walls of some plants, particularly cereals.

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Scientists deconstruct the perfect papaya

“According to our consumer taste tests, the perfect papaya is red, small or hand-sized, fewer seeds, a velvety texture, and sweet caramelised rockmelon and banana flavours,” said Dr Heather Smyth from the Queensland Alliance of Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), a partnership between The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).

Despite being rich in anti-cancer components and often described as a ‘superfood’, papayas are off the menu for many consumers, due to perceptions of the fruit’s pungent taste or aroma.

“Papayas are super healthy – full of carotenoids and anti-cancer compounds such as isothiocyanates, in the flesh and seeds – but there are perceptions of them being expensive and having a bad flavour,” Dr Smyth said.

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Genetically Engineering the Chloroplast Genome

Photosynthesis – the process by which plants converted sunlight into energy for growth and produce oxygen – is arguably the most important biological process on earth. The holy grail of plant science has long been to bioengineer the photosynthetic pathways in plants to grow larger, more productive crops that are better adapted to climate change and boost food security.

LEGUME LABORATORY

We didn’t realise just how cool the chloroplast is – not only does it orchestrate photosynthesis, one of the most important phenomena sustaining life on earth, but it may play a significant role in how we feed the world sustainability.

A review in Genome Biology – ‘Chloroplast genomes: diversity, evolution and applications in genetic engineering‘ – details what we know about the chloroplast genome, how it can be used and how it can be modified, before launching into examples of why chloroplast engineering is likely to have a significant involvement in future crop engineering and in the production of pharmaceuticals and industrial materials.

The Chloroplast Genome

Our increasing knowledge of the chloroplast genome has been greatly assisted in the last decade or so by the advance in genome sequencing. Currently, the Illumina next-generation sequencing process coupled with bioinformatics tools has enabled the de-novo construction of most of the…

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The life of Brian (Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate)

I attended a talk yesterday organised by QUT Science and Engineering featuring Nobel Laureate cosmologist Brian Schmidt talking about the big bang or “gnab gib” (big bang spelled backwards), i.e. expansion and end of the universe

What a great communicator Brian Schmidt is! He gave really good advice for early career scientists. He reckons research is the best job and everything else is slightly less interesting. Professor Schmidt was born in the US, is based at ANU. I think he says in his talk that he was only 27 when he took on the role of managing the international project that led to the Nobel Prize (yes, I hate him too).

Thanks QUT and Gates Cambridge for an excellent seminar.

brian schmidt