Press Room

Scientists Study Beetle Flight with Tiny Computers

Thursday, March 26th 2015

Two researchers curious about how insects actually fly have been strapping computers and radios on the backs of beetles in a UC Berkeley lab and watching them twist and turn and hover in the air. Seven years ago, Michel Maharbiz, PBD faculty scientist and UC Berkeley electrical engineer, and a former graduate student in his lab, Hitoko Sato, began to study the muscles beetles use in flight to better understand the mechanism insects use to fly and to see if this information might help to design and build tiny flying robots. These robots would be small enough to flit through open windows or caves or ruined buildings, for a variety of missions such as search-and-rescue operations.

Turn the Light On

Tuesday, March 24th 2015

Ehud Isacoff, who holds appointments with both the Physical Biosciences and the Materials Sciences Divisions, led a study in which a team of researchers discovered a light-sensitive opsin protein that plays a surprising and possibly critical role in neuron maturation and circuit formation. This discovery could lead to a potentially powerful new tool in the on-going search for a better understanding of how the brain and central nervous system develop.

Caution Urged in Using New DNA Editing Technology for Gene Therapy

Friday, March 20th 2015

A group of 18 scientists and ethicists today warned that a revolutionary new tool to cut and splice DNA should be used cautiously when attempting to fix human genetic disease, and strongly discouraged any attempts at making changes to the human genome that could be passed on to offspring.

Among the authors of this warning is PBD Faculty Scientist Jennifer Doudna, the co-inventor of the technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, which is driving a new interest in gene therapy, or “genome engineering.” She and colleagues co-authored a perspective piece that appears in the March 20 issue of Science, based on discussions at a meeting that took place in Napa on Jan. 24. The same issue of Science features a collection of recent research papers, commentary and news articles on CRISPR and its implications.

Pam Ronald To Be a TED2015 Speaker

Wednesday, March 11th 2015

Pam Ronald, PBD Faculty Scientist and JBEI’s Director of Grass Genetics, will give a talk at TED2015 Truth and Dare, taking place in Vancouver March 16-19. Ronald’s laboratory has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threaten rice crops in Asia and Africa. Her research has shown that genetic engineering is a critical component of feeding the world without further destroying the environment. Ronald will speak in the Radical Reframe session about her holistic vision of sustainable agriculture that includes the use of sometimes controversial technologies.