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Research Summaries

BioLine Research Summaries

Luciferin, the lights behind science and food security

Using fungi bioluminescence in plants could increase crop pollination for food production.

On dark, starless, summer nights, sometimes we get surprised by steady lights emitted by click beetles or flashing lights from fireflies. Have you ever wondered why those lights liven up the sky? The lights are used to communicate, attract prey, defend, and mate. Maybe similar lights can be designed for plants to talk to insects to increase natural insect pollination rates of crops for food production. 

Stop eating at Popeyes. Have olive oil instead.

Fad diets promise weight loss and a long healthy life. But, no diet follows through like the Mediterranean diet does.

When you look at places with the highest proportion of centenarians — no, not centaurs the mythical man horse combo; rather, people that live to be over 100-years-old — the small island of Sardinia nestled in the Mediterranean has the third highest population in the world right behind the US and Japan. 

Scientists know that the high levels of olive oil in Sardinian diets explains why they live so long. But they didn’t know why until now.

Fresh forays into fly vision

Flies in the lab get a color TV while researchers watch their neurons fire. Researchers at the UMN devise a new set up to get a deeper look at how flies see color. 

Fly eyes play an important role in picking up information about the world around them, finding food and avoiding danger. But before this information can become useful, neural circuits in the brain need to simplify and extract the important components. Within milliseconds these little insects make complex decisions about where to turn, what to eat and what to avoid. 

A tale of stress and broken hearts

Researchers found that stress is a risk factor for a fatal muscle disease that may cause a decline of patients' health due to heart failure.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a fatal muscle wasting disease that affects 1 in 3,500 boys, totaling 620 baby boys born each year in the US.

Natural selection imitates a highly competitive economy – then everybody dies

We typically expect natural selection to improve the condition of a species, leading to their long-term survival; however, 99.9 percent of all species on Earth are now extinct. It seems that natural selection might be pretty good at helping us make it through today, but pretty awful at preparing us for tomorrow.

Complicated relationships within your salad

Plants inhabit many environments across the globe, and some groups can survive extreme conditions. One of these groups is the amaranth family. Members of this family, including several important crops such as amaranth, quinoa, spinach, and sugar beet, are well known for evolving adaptations to survive extreme environments, such as C4 photosynthesis in hot and often dry places and tolerance to highly elevated levels of salt or heavy metals.

300 days without water - how tropical trees can survive drought

trees without leaves in background and trees with leaves in foreground
Photo credit: Dr. Jennifer S. Powers


Imagine that you are walking in a tropical forest in Costa Rica where most trees look like the ones in Minnesota during the winter -- leafless. You might be wondering how this can be possible. What can be causing these trees to lose their leaves?