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The Green Secrets of Goat Poop

Converting the tough fibers and complex sugars in plants into biofuels and other products could be humanity’s ticket to smarter materials, better medicines, and a petroleum-free, sustainable future. Hoping to discover new and improved ways of processing plant material for industrial purposes, scientists like Michelle O’Malley at UC Santa Barbara and the Joint BioEnergy Institute have been studying the gut microbiomes of the planet’s most prolific herbivores: ruminant animals such as goats.

Are Gut Microbes the Key to Unlocking Anxiety?

The prevalence of anxiety disorders, already the most common mental illness in many countries, including the US, has surged during the novel coronavirus pandemic. A new study provides evidence that taking care of our gut microbiome may help mitigate some of that anxiety.

A Detailed Look Inside Tsetse Flies

To better understand the unique reproductive biology of tsetse flies, which are carriers of the parasites that cause a deadly infection known as African sleeping sickness, researchers explored the intact organs and tissues of tsetse flies using a powerful 3D X-ray imaging technique at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source.

How to Find Mutated Sperm? Just Go FISH

A test developed by Berkeley Lab scientists can quickly and easily detect whether sperm cells are carrying chromosomal defects, an advance that will help men who have undergone cancer treatment father healthy children.

The Odd Structure of ORF8: Scientists Map the Coronavirus Protein Linked to Immune Evasion and Disease Severity

A team of biologists who banded together to support COVID-19 science determined the atomic structure of a coronavirus protein thought to help the pathogen evade and dampen response from human immune cells. The structural map – which is now published in the journal PNAS, but has been open-access for the scientific community since August – has laid the groundwork for new antiviral treatments and enabled further investigations into how the newly emerged virus ravages the human body.

Scientists Recruit New Atomic Heavyweights in Targeted Fight Against Cancer

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed new methods for the large-scale production, purification, and use of the radioisotope cerium-134, which could serve as a PET imaging radioisotope for a highly targeted cancer treatment known as alpha-particle therapy.

Cataloging Nature’s Hidden Arsenal: Viruses that Infect Bacteria

A new approach for studying phages-bacteria interactions will help scientists study the intricate offensive and defensive chemical tactics used by parasite and host. These microscopic battles have implications for medicine development, agricultural research, and climate science.

How to Reduce Greenhouse Gas? Tips from a Methane-Eating Microbe

Scientists have determined the structure of a unique enzyme, produced by a species of methane-eating bacteria, that converts the greenhouse gas into methanol – a highly versatile liquid fuel and industrial product ingredient.

Uncovering Novel Genomes from Earth’s Microbiomes

Scientists from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and DOE Systems Biology Knowledgebase have launched a public database of 52,515 microbial draft genomes generated from environmental samples collected around the world. The new resource, known as the Genomes from Earth’s Microbiomes (GEM) catalog, provides extensive insight into the many types of microbes that are impossible to grow in a lab, and expands the known diversity of bacteria and archaea by 44%.

Microbe “Rewiring” Technique Promises a Boom in Biomanufacturing

Berkeley Lab researchers have achieved unprecedented success in modifying a microbe to efficiently produce a compound of interest using a computational model and CRISPR-based gene editing. Their approach could dramatically speed up the research and development phase for new biomanufacturing processes, getting advanced bio-based products, such as sustainable fuels and plastic alternatives, on the shelves faster.