Uncoding a Citrus Tree Killer

Wenbo Ma

Wenbo Ma

A team of scientists led by UCR’s Wenbo Ma, associate professor of plant pathology, has been awarded a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to save the United States citrus industry from a disease that has already devastated the industry worldwide.

Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, is a bacterial plant disease fatal to citrus trees. The disease has devastated citrus trees in Asia, South America and Florida. More recently it has been found in Texas and California.

“This disease is getting more and more scary because we have no cure,” said Ma. “Once a tree is infested all a grower can do is watch it die.”

Ma and the other scientists will use the funding to study the disease at a molecular level to identify ways to stop it from killing citrus trees and develop varieties that are resistant to the disease. The project will be the first attempt to understand differences of HLB in different citrus growing areas.

Read more about the research here.

Breakthrough in Generating Embryonic Cells That Are Critical for Human Health

Martín García-Castro

Martín García-Castro

Work done by a research team led by Martin Garcia-Castro, associate professor of biomedical sciences, reports of a robust, fast, simple and trackable model to generate neural crest cells. The proposed method can facilitate research in basic sciences and clinical applications alike.

“Our study provides a superb model to generate neural crest cells in just five days starting from human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent cells, using a simple and well-defined media with all ingredients known and accounted for,” said García-Castro, whose lab led the study published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Development. “Our cost-effective, efficient and fast protocol allows a better analysis of the relevant signals and molecules involved in the formation of these cells. Our results suggest that human neural crest cells can arise independently from – and prior to – the formation of mesoderm and neural ectoderm derivatives, both of which had been thought to be critical for neural crest formation.”

The study was supported by funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health as well as Connecticut Innovations, a funding source for companies in Connecticut. Read more about the study here.

Double Dose of Bad Earthquake News

Gareth Funning, associate professor of earth sciences, and a team of researchers has discovered that earthquake ruptures can jump much further than previously thought, a finding that could have severe implications on the Los Angeles area and other regions in the world.

The scientists found that an earthquake that initiates on one thrust fault can spread 10 times farther than previously thought to a second nearby thrust fault, vastly expanding the possible range of “earthquake doublets,” or double earthquakes.

That could mean in areas such as Los Angeles, where there are multiple thrust faults close to each other, an earthquake from one thrust fault could spread to another fault, creating twice as much devastation.

The paper is called “Limitations of rupture forecasting exposed by instantaneously triggered earthquake doublet” and was published online on Feb. 8 about the research in the journal Nature Geoscience.  Read more about the research here.

New Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship Program Launches in California

UCR has announced the launch of a new cardiovascular fellowship program, sponsored by the university’s School of Medicine and based at Dignity Health – St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, Calif. The three-year fellowship, which begins July 1, 2016, will provide accepted applicants a clinical learning environment and rigorous, comprehensive training in cardiovascular medicine.

Funded currently for three years, the program aims at training physicians to be competent and compassionate practitioners in cardiovascular medicine. Fellows accepted in the program will learn also to exercise evidence-based practice.  Areas of training to be covered in rotations include preventive cardiovascular medicine, echocardiography, vascular medicine, cardiac catheterization, heart failure, critical care cardiology and congenital heart disease.

Four fellows will be accepted into the program each year for three consecutive years. Once accepted into the program a fellow will train for three years.  The program has been approved to accept 12 fellows in total.

Read more about the program here.

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