Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a new enzyme that will enable microbial production of a renewable alternative to petroleum-based toluene, a widely used octane booster in gasoline that has a global market of twenty nine million tons per year.More »
Building on four decades of research, Mina Bissell, Distinguished Scientist in Biological Systems and Engineering (BSE) Division and her colleagues have demonstrated a dynamic reciprocity between the extracellular matrix (ECM) and cell nucleus for tissue-specific gene expression. Using the 3D ECM gel to study signaling from outside the cell to the nucleus they have unraveled a dozen different pathways critical for the formation of phenotypically normal breast tissue. The signaling between the ECM and the nucleus is pivotal, bidirectional, and intricate. In two papers published in eLife this week, Bissell and Dan Fletcher, BSE faculty scientist and Purnendu Chatterjee Professor and Chair of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley, shed new light on how the extracellular matrix communicates with breast cells to generate nitric oxide, forming a loop that influences the pathway a single cell takes to form breast tissue.More »
In a new study published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers led by Jay Keasling, CEO of the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), report that brewer’s yeast can be engineered to alter the flavor of beer. In this case, the scientists incorporated recombinant DNA derived from yeast, mint, and basil so the brewer’s yeast would biosynthesize aromatic monoterpene molecules that impart hoppy flavor. The benefits of this are two-fold: bioengineering can lead to flavor palette expansion while increasing the sustainability of the brewing process.More »
Cigarette smoke contains myriad compounds that are known mutagens and carcinogens, and the health risks associated with active smoking and secondhand smoke are well established. Nearly 10 years ago, researchers at Berkeley Lab identified another potentially hazardous source of tobacco exposure: “thirdhand smoke,” the toxic residues that linger on indoor surfaces and in dust long after a cigarette has been extinguished. A team led by Antoine Snijders, Jian-Hua Mao, and Bo Hang in Biosciences’ Biological Systems and Engineering (BSE) Division have determined that early thirdhand smoke exposure is also associated with increased incidence and severity of lung cancer in mice.More »
A multidisciplinary team of bioengineers and metabolic researchers led Andreas Stahl, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology at UC Berkeley, has figured out a new pathway that triggers brown fat to consume calories and radiate them away as heat. Sanjay Kumar, a faculty scientist in Biological Systems and Engineering (BSE) and assistant professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley, was a co-author on the study published March 6 in Cell Metabolism. One unexpected finding was that muscle-like myosin is responsible for causing brown fat cells to stiffen in response to signals from the brain; it is this increased tension that triggers a biochemical pathway that ends with these cells burning calories for heat. “This study offers a remarkable example of how mechanical and other physical forces can influence physiology and disease in powerful, unexpected ways,” Kumar said. Understanding how brown fat is activated could unlock new ways to combat obesity. Read more from UC Berkeley News.