Volume III, Issue 2: October 2010


Scientists decode genomes of sexually precocious fruit flies

Molly Burke with fruit flies
UCI doctoral student Molly Burke used fruit flies to find more than 500 new genes linked to aging and sexual development.

UCI researchers have deciphered how lowly fruit flies bred to rapidly develop and reproduce actually evolve over time. The findings, reported in the Sept. 15 online issue of Nature, contradict the long-held belief that sexual beings evolve the same way simpler organisms do and could fundamentally alter the direction of genetic research for new pharmaceuticals and other products.

Fruit fly genomes »

Study finds alarming increase in flow of water into oceans

Jay Famiglietti
Jay Famiglietti conducted his pioneering study using NASA and other world-scale satellite observations to track water flow into the oceans.

Freshwater is flowing into Earth's oceans in greater amounts every year, a team of researchers has found, thanks to more frequent and extreme storms linked to global warming. All told, 18 percent more water fed into the world's oceans from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994. "That may not sound like much — 1.5 percent a year — but after a few decades, it's huge," said Jay Famiglietti, UCI Earth system science professor and the study's principal investigator. The shift means even less water is going to semiarid regions, where millions of people live.

Ocean study »

Researchers discover new painkiller

Daniele Piomelli
Daniele Piomelli says his recent findings raise hope that the "analgesic properties of marijuana can be harnessed to curb pain."

American and Italian researchers have found that a novel drug allows anandamide — a marijuana-like chemical in the body — to effectively control pain at the site of an injury. Led by Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at UCI, the study suggests that such compounds could form the basis of pain medications that don't produce sedation, addiction or other central nervous system side effects common with existing painkillers, such as opiates.

Painkiller »

Liver defect detected in Alzheimer's patients

UCI researchers have discovered that markedly depleted amounts of an omega-3 fatty acid in brain tissue samples from Alzheimer's patients may be due to the liver's inability to produce the complex fat, also contained in fish-oil supplements. Low levels of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, have been associated with the chronic neurodegenerative disease affecting millions of Americans, but no cause had been identified. In postmortem liver tissue from Alzheimer's patients, the UCI team found a defect in the organ’s ability to make DHA from shorter molecules present in leafy plants and other foods.

Liver study »