Science Snapshots from Berkeley Lab

An experiment to study gravity at the quantum scale, insights into an antibiotic-building enzyme, and the backstory of an incredible new protein prediction algorithm are featured in this month’s roundup of science highlights.

Scientists ID Enzyme for Making Key Industrial Chemical in Plants

Scientists studying the biochemistry of plant cell walls have identified an enzyme that could turn woody poplar trees into a source for producing a major industrial chemical. The research, just published in Nature Plants, could lead to a new sustainable pathway for making “p-hydroxybenzoic acid,” a chemical building block currently derived from fossil fuels, in plant biomass.

Harnessing the Power of Proteins in our Cells to Combat Disease

A lab on UNLV’s campus has been a hub of activity in recent years, playing a significant role in a new realm of drug discovery — one that could potentially provide a solution for patients who have run out of options.

Gut Microbiome Manipulation Could Result from Virus Discovery

Scientists have discovered how a common virus in the human gut infects and takes over bacterial cells – a finding that could be used to control the composition of the gut microbiome, which is important for human health. The Rutgers co-authored research, which could aid efforts to engineer beneficial bacteria that produce medicines and fuels and clean up pollutants, is published in the journal Nature.

New Science Behind Algae-based Flip-flops

UC San Diego researchers formulated polyurethane foams, made from algae oil, to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops. Their latest result, in a series of recent research publications, offers a complete solution to the plastics problem—at least for polyurethanes.

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss How to Help Free Market Fight Coronavirus

New Brunswick, N.J. (March 25, 2020) – Stephen K. Burley, director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank headquartered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, is available for interviews on how to help the free market fight the coronavirus. His viewpoint is published in the journal Nature. “Had drug…

Scientists Have Discovered the Origins of the Building Blocks of Life

Rutgers researchers have discovered the origins of the protein structures responsible for metabolism: simple molecules that powered early life on Earth and serve as chemical signals that NASA could use to search for life on other planets. Their study, which predicts what the earliest proteins looked like 3.5 billion to 2.5 billion years ago, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss New Coronavirus Enzyme Structure

New Brunswick, N.J. (Feb. 5, 2020) – Stephen K. Burley, director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank headquartered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, is available for interviews on the 3D structure of a key enzyme in the new coronavirus that has been made publicly available…

High-Tech Printing May Help Eliminate Painful Shots

Painful hypodermic needles may not be needed in the future to give shots, inject drugs and get blood samples. With 4D printing, Rutgers engineers have created tiny needles that mimic parasites that attach to skin and could replace hypodermic needles, according to a study in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

How to Make it Easier to Turn Plant Waste into Biofuels

Researchers have developed a new process that could make it much cheaper to produce biofuels such as ethanol from plant waste and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Their approach, featuring an ammonia-salt based solvent that rapidly turns plant fibers into sugars needed to make ethanol, works well at close to room temperature, unlike conventional processes, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Green Chemistry.

Two Rutgers Professors Named Fellows of AAAS

Two Rutgers professors have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this year, an honor awarded to AAAS members by their peers. They join 441 other AAAS members named new fellows because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The fellows will be presented an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 15 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

New ACI Guidance Provides Pathways for Stewardship of Enzyme-containing Consumer Products

Enzymes bring significant benefits to laundry and cleaning products, including improved cleaning efficiencies. An updated publication from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) provides a framework for consumer product manufacturers to develop appropriate risk management strategies to avoid unacceptable risks to the users of new products containing enzymes.