Fungal tissues – the fungal mantle around the root tip and the fungal network of tendrils that penetrates the root of plants, or Hartig Net, between Pinus sylvestris plant root cells – in green. Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi help trees tolerate drought and boost the productivity of bioenergy feedstock trees, including poplar and willow.

Via Berkeley Lab: The sclerotia are in the soil!

More: How Fungi Help Trees Tolerate Drought (Joint Genome Institute)

Overlooked Molecules May Revolutionize Understanding of the Immune System

Thousands of new immune system signals have been uncovered with potential implications for immunotherapy, autoimmune diseases and vaccine development.

The researchers behind the finding say it is the biological equivalent of discovering a new continent.

Our cells regularly break down proteins from our own bodies and from foreign bodies, such as viruses and bacteria. Small fragments of these proteins, called epitopes, are displayed on the surface of the cells like little flags so that the immune system can scan them. If they are recognised as foreign, the immune system will destroy the cell to prevent the spread of infection.

In a new study, researchers have discovered that around one third of all the epitopes displayed for scanning by the immune system are a type known as ‘spliced’ epitopes.

These spliced epitopes were thought to be rare, but the scientists have now identified thousands of them by developing a new method that allowed them to map the surface of cells and identify a myriad of previously unknown epitopes.

“A large fraction of HLA class I ligands are proteasome-generated spliced peptides” by Juliane Liepe, Fabio Marino, John Sidney, Anita Jeko, Daniel E. Bunting, Alessandro Sette, Peter M. Kloetzel, Michael P. H. Stumpf1, Albert J. R. Heck, and Michele Mishto in Science. Published online October 21 2016 doi:10.1126/science.aaf4384

Impression of the immune system attacking a virus. The Y-shaped stalks are the epitopes. image is adapted from the Imperial College London press release.


The Okavango Delta – the jewel of the Kalahari

The Okavango Delta lies in the north of Botswana nestled in the basin of the Kalahari Desert. In the middle of a tectonic through the Okavango River forms a huge swampy inland delta produced by seasonal flooding. There is a less than 2 meters variation in height across the area which leads to the formation of the characteristic myriad waterways of the delta.

Keep reading


This tiny snail (the bar is 1mm) is a recently discovered new species of acuatic snail from the Chilean Altiplano. The microsnail it was named Heleobia carcotensis in refers to the Carcote saltpan, where it was found.

The new species has a very localized distribution, restricted to ‘Spring 1′ a small thermal water body (21°C) in the Carcote salt pan, at 3688 m above sea level. Same place where an ancient human settlement existed, probably related to Aymara culture, where still remain a few ruins known as Cuchichá. The landscape of the area is dominated by the volcanoes Ollagüe to the east and Aucanquilcha to the north.

- Salar de Carcote viewed from the south by Diego Delso

Thespesius occidentalis

By Jack Wood on @thewoodparable

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Name: Thespius occidentalis

Name Meaning: Wondrous One

First Described: 1856

Described By: Leidy

ClassificationDinosauria, Ornithischia, Genasauria, Neornithischia, Cerapoda, Ornithopoda, Iguanodontia, Dryomorpha, Ankylopollexia, Styracosterna, Hadrosauriformes, Hadrosauroidea, Hadrosauridae, Saurolophinae

Thespesius is a poorly known Saurolophine that, nonetheless, has one of the more interesting genus names given to a dinosaur, discovered in the Lance Formation in South Dakota. It lived about 66 million years ago, in the Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous, making it one of the later surviving hadrosaurs. It was described based on some vertebrae and a phalanx of what seemed to be colossal size, indicating that it would have been a fairly large hadrosaur. At the time of its discovery it was uncertain whether the remains came from the Cretaceous or the Miocene, and as such it wasn’t given a -saurus suffix, on the off chance it was a mammal. Though it was found to be a dinosaur, later research on the animal revealed it to be poorly known, and though often a classically important hadrosaur, much like Trachodon, it hasn’t been given much attention or import since the early 1900s. 


Shout out goes to @revedas!

TB tricks the body’s immune system to allow it to spread

Tuberculosis (TB) tricks the immune system into attacking the body’s lung tissue so the bacteria are allowed to spread to other people, new research from the University of Southampton suggests.

The concept, published in Trends in Immunology, proposes that current ideas about how tuberculosis develops in patients may be incomplete and that, in fact, infection causes autoimmunity, where the immune system reacts incorrectly to its own tissue.

Tuberculosis kills more people than any other infectious disease, and the causative bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics used to treat the infection.

The Southampton research team conducted a review of published studies and found evidence suggesting that an autoimmunity process develops in TB.

Professor Paul Elkington, of the University of Southampton, who led the project, said “We are not disputing that the immune system mainly targets the bacteria to fight it off, but we are suggesting that there is more to the story.

Paul Elkington, Marc Tebruegge, Salah Mansour. Tuberculosis: An Infection-Initiated Autoimmune Disease? Trends in Immunology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/

CT scan showing inflammation and lung destruction in a TB lung

I don’t think humanity is going to be a single species much longer — maybe because of divergent evolution as we expand into space, and maybe sooner than that via genetic manipulation. Unless you enforce a total prohibition on genetic research — unless you effectively outlaw the study of biology — I think it’s inevitable that people are going to want to make their children better than themselves, and the techniques to do that will be available in the next century.
—  Freeman Dyson

Patients With Insomnia Have Altered Activity In Specific Brain Regions

Specific brain regions, including those involved in awareness of self and tendency to ruminate, show altered activity in patients with insomnia when compared to good sleepers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published this week in the journal SLEEP.

In what is the largest study of its kind on insomnia, a research group led by Daniel Buysse M.D., professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science, and the UPMC Professor of Sleep Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, identified differences in brain activity between states of sleep and wakefulness in 44 patients diagnosed with insomnia and 40 good sleepers.

“While patients with insomnia often have their symptoms trivialized by friends, families and even physicians, the findings in this study add strong evidence to the emerging view that insomnia is a condition with neurobiological as well as psychological causes,” said Dr. Buysse, who is the senior author on the study. The study also shows that brain activity during sleep is more nuanced than previously thought, with different brain regions experiencing varying ‘depths’ of sleep.

24/10/16 11.35 am
Biology revision
I’ve been away for a while as my internal exams finished about two weeks ago and since then I’ve been really bad and haven’t been revising. Half term has just come around and so I’m starting to get back on track. My exams went well, in Maths I got an A, Biology I got an A and then in Economics we had two papers, the difficult one I did really well in and got second highest in my class and the easy one I completely flopped and got the lowest in my class as it was all memorising but I had just memorised things that weren’t on the test, so that averaged as a C. I finally got my predicted grades which are A*AA (the A* in Maths) which means now I can apply to Durham, Warwick and Nottingham!!! I just need to finish my personal statement over half term and I’m hoping to apply the first week back. Are any of you guys applying to uni this year? If so, what course are you applying to? Also add me on snapchat @ pincomplete . Message me and I’ll add you back ^^