Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery

By David Ivanov, Biochemistry ’15

Oral vaccines are known to be a convenient and effective method for treatment or prevention of diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. The difficulty of developing such vaccines is due to the often inhospitable environment of the stomach and intestinal tract because of low pH, or acidity, as well as enzymes that can digest or destroy biological molecules. Using a virus-like particle to deliver the vaccine is an advantageous method for getting around these and other barriers in the host organism.

A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a biological particle that resembles a virus, but contains no genetic information and thus cannot infect host cells. VLP’s can be formed by inserting and expressing just the genes for creating the viral capsid, which is a shell made up of protein subunits that protects the infectious genetic information in wild-type, or normal, viruses. The expressed capsid proteins can then self-assemble into the VLP. The capsid also has domains, or structural areas, that are responsible for recognizing suitable host cells to infect and inserting the viral genome.

Continue reading Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery

Climate Engineering: Worth the Risk?

By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15

Researchers at the GEOMAR Helmhotltz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel are studying the long-term effects of “climate engineering” methods that could help to preserve the climate and protect from rising temperatures. This winter every part of the world except the eastern United States reported record breaking high temperatures. Although political agreements have been made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the effects may be too slow as levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases continue to rise. This is especially important as populous countries, such as China and India, become increasingly industrialized and consequentially raise their greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading Climate Engineering: Worth the Risk?

Prenatal Exposures and Risk for Chronic Diseases Later in Life

By Marisa Sanchez, Genetics ’15

Most people know that poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking as an adult can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Type II diabetes. However, research over the past couple of decades has shown that risk for CVD and type II diabetes could begin as early as prenatally through adverse exposures, such as overnutrition and placental insufficiency. Some mechanisms involved in determining risk for CVD and Type II diabetes are oxidative stress, inflammation, lipotoxicity, and epigenetics. Continue reading Prenatal Exposures and Risk for Chronic Diseases Later in Life

Genome-Wide Association Identifies Genes Linked to Autism

By Ashley Chang, Genetics ’15

Biostatisticians led by Knut Wittkowski at Rockefeller University Hospital have employed new methods of genome-wide association studies to identify genes that they believe to be associated with autism. The researchers compared genomes of patients with varying degrees of autism to healthy patients and were able to identify genetic variations that seem to be linked to the pathology of neural development in young children. The technique used to identify these genes is unique. Rather than traditional genome association, which searches for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), this new method looks for combinations of several SNPs that are common in patients with a disease. Wittkowski also compared this new autism profile to patients with childhood epilepsy and found mutations in similar genes that control axonal guidance and calcium signaling. Both of these are important in the developing brain to ensure that the correct connections are made. Continue reading Genome-Wide Association Identifies Genes Linked to Autism

Dissecting the signaling pathway regulating early stages in parasitic plant, host plant interactions

By Lee Nguyen, Biotechnology ’14

Parasitic plants pose a serious threat to the world’s agriculture and environment.  Understanding the parasitism signaling pathway will help identify methods of pest control as well as pest resistance. One gene that enters the parasitic signaling pathway early is TvQR1, a gene that encodes an enzyme that catalyzes an oxidation-reduction reaction crucial for development of a root like outgrowth called a haustorium. In parasitic plants, TvQR1 is transcriptionally activated upon host contact and my project is to study the promoter of this gene, pQR1, in a nonparasitic plant. Continue reading Dissecting the signaling pathway regulating early stages in parasitic plant, host plant interactions

Welcome to the Aggie Transcript

This website will soon be home to student-created articles and artwork relating to biology. In the coming days and months, we will publish short news updates, in-depth articles, and even works of art created by undergraduate students at UC Davis. The topics will cover all aspects of life science–from biochemistry to ecology, and from basic research to real-world applications. All UC Davis undergraduates, regardless of major, are welcome to submit pieces for publication.

Our aim is to give students a platform to share their passion and curiosity with a wider audience. As students, we have a unique perspective on science–we’re immersed, every day, in learning about the fundamentals of biology and how research is done. Since we’re actively engaged in integrating all this information, we can act as translators, explaining scientific concepts to non-scientists.

So welcome, readers! We hope you enjoy this website, and we look forward to reading your feedback. To our fellow UC Davis students: we hope you will consider submitting pieces for publication.

An undergraduate life sciences journal at UC Davis