Life

A Plug for Science

A biopsy dart fired from a crossbow hits home on the flank of a surfacing humpback whale in the Palmer Deep off the Antarctic Peninsula in January. Duke Marine Lab scientists based on the research ship Lawrence M. Gould were harmlessly obtaining these small samples of skin and blubber during a National Science Foundation expedition to identify the sex and relatedness of whales and to assess their diet and reproductive status.

Creeping Fat

With obesity and age, fat cells invade the pancreas, where they become factors in the insulin secretion process relevant to diabetes and in the inflammation that leads to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. James Minchin, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology made this image of lipid droplets (magenta) surrounded by fibrous collagen (green) in the pancreatic tissue of zebrafish as part of his work on genetic and environmental sources of obesity.

Tie-Dye Fly

It may look like a poster for the Grateful Dead, but these Day-Glo rainbow stripes belong to a fruit fly. Duke biologist Amy Bejsovec is studying the patterns that emerge during a fruit fly's development from egg to adult -- information that may help treat diseases that arise when normal development goes awry. The red stripes stain a protein called Wingless, which helps cells grow and multiply and develop into different cell types. Blue marks cell nuclei.

Nano Mosh Pit

A biomaterials lab led by Gabriel Lopez has devised a way to grow uniformly sized particles of silicon gel  that can be sorted by soundwaves.  In a liquid chamber with a standing acoustic wave, most particles will gather at the nodes where the wave is standing still. But the new particles are actually attracted to the antinodes where the highest point of the wave is constantly shifting up and down.

Growing Sense of Smell

A fruitfly's sense of smell relies on a diverse set of receptor neurons along its antennae. As an embryonic fruitfly develops, 50 different classes of receptors are built from precursor cells, taking different final forms based on gene expression patterns. In a Dec. 2013 paper in Current Biology, the lab of Pelin Volkan, assistant professor of biology and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, explains the logic of a combinatorial code that creates those gene expression patterns.

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