Research at NCSU

I love getting alumni letters from NCSU – I get reminded over and over again how cool research gets done there all the time. In this issue, for instance:
NC State Study Finds Genes Important to Sleep:

For many animals, sleep is a risk: foraging for food, mingling with mates and guarding against predators just aren’t possible while snoozing. How, then, has this seemingly life-threatening behavior remained constant among various species of animals?
A new study by scientists at North Carolina State University shows that the fruit fly is genetically wired to sleep, although the sleep comes in widely variable amounts and patterns. Learning more about the genetics of sleep in model animals could lead to advances in understanding human sleep and how sleep loss affects the human condition.
The study, published online in Nature Genetics, examined the sleep and activity patterns of 40 different wild-derived lines of Drosophila melanogaster – one of the model animals used in scientific studies. It found that, on average, male fruit flies slept longer than females; males slept more during the day than females; and males were more active when awake than females. Females, in turn, tended to have more frequent bouts….

Birds Do It, Bees Do It; Termites Don’t, Necessarily:

Scientists at North Carolina State University and three universities in Japan have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite “primary queens” to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes.
The asexually produced babies mostly grow to be queen successors – so-called “secondary queens” – that remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. This produces large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with the king.
Babies produced the old-fashioned way, between either the primary or secondary queens and the king, are mostly workers and soldiers of both genders, the research shows.
The research is published in the March 27 edition of the journal Science.
Dr. Ed Vargo, associate professor of entomology at NC State and a co-author of the paper, says that the species of subterranean termite studied, Reticulitermes speratus, is an important economic pest in Japan and is in the same genus as termites found in North Carolina…..

Good Bacteria Can Be ‘EZ Pass’ for Oral Vaccine Against Anthrax :

Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered that the good bacteria found in dairy products and linked to positive health benefits in the human body might also be an effective vehicle for an oral vaccine that can provide immunity to anthrax exposure. The approach could possibly be used to deliver any number of specific vaccines that could block other types of viruses and pathogens.
The oral vaccine riding inside the good bacteria makes its way through the stomach and into the small intestine, an important immunological organ, where it easily and efficiently binds to cells that trigger an immune response – in this case, protection against anthrax in mice….

N.C. State research produces winter strawberries:

Nestled among the rolling hills of the Piedmont Research Station in Rowan County just west of Salisbury are high-tunnel greenhouses that in the dead of winter are teeming with fresh, red strawberries. The North Carolina State University research project could result in a new winter crop for North Carolina farmers.
The project resulted from a trip to England and Spain several years ago when Dr. Jim Ballington, horticultural science professor and small fruit breeder in the N.C. State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, saw the use of high tunnels for small fruit production and realized it provided potential for North Carolina….

Revealing the secret lives of bees:

Just how wild are wild honeybees, the bees found buzzing through a residential garden as opposed to those kept by a beekeeper, and how are those wild bees doing, living in the woods in a hollow tree?
A North Carolina State University entomologist is trying to find out, and what she finds could end up helping all bees, whether managed or wild.
Dr. Deborah Delaney, a post-doctoral researcher in the N.C. State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is collecting what she calls feral bees across North Carolina. Delaney plans to study the DNA of the bees she has collected to determine whether they are, in fact, feral. It may be that what appear to be wild bees actually escaped from a managed hive and took up residence in the woods….

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