Living Tissue

Dillon J. Cislo, a researcher in the UC Santa Barbara Physics Department, studies the orientational arrangement and the necessity of order in the development of organs. Cislo and his team have demonstrated how an orientationally ordered phase is first established and then maintained during the early stages of embryogenesis, the initial developmental stage of an embryo following fertilization, even when the cell multiplication process occurs. This research is derived from the process of morphogenesis, which is the development of body parts by so-called “direct developers” — animals that are capable of assembling a miniature version of the adult body during the process of embryogenesis. Specifically, the researchers focused on understanding how order and orientation arrangement play an important role in morphogenesis. They thereby investigated how living systems, specifically those developing tissues, are able to generate and maintain order when cell divisions are present.

There has been a lack of studies investigating the role of order and orientational arrangement in living tissues in the context of cell proliferation. This study addresses the interplay occurring between order, morphogenesis and thus cell proliferation within developing tissues. It fills the knowledge gap in understanding how non-equilibrium mechanisms in living systems are able to generate while maintaining the necessary order to specify the body plan.

The study’s methodology involved live imaging of transgenic Parhyale embryos, embryos that have been genetically modified to introduce foreign DNA using a custom-built microscope. The researchers then carried out processes of data analysis, cell tracking and quantitative analysis to study the developmental dynamics of the embryos. They concluded that the developmental dynamics of transgenic Parhyale embryos show characteristics of hydrodynamic components. For future studies, they highlighted the importance of enhanced imaging techniques and larger datasets.

Better Batteries

A recent study led by UC Berkeley researcher Juhyeon Ahn and contributed to by researchers in UCSB’s Materials Department found that a disordered rock salt (DRX) cathode material that is rich in the element manganese undergoes major structural evolution, a process known as electrochemical cycling. This leads to the formation of plateau-like features in the voltage profile, which improves the battery’s discharge capacity and energy density, meaning it can deliver a consistent quantity of energy over a longer period. This study began because of issues within the search for cathode materials that are able to address the limitation of conventional lithium-ion battery technologies. Researchers are interested in developing advanced lithium-ion batteries with increased performance levels and safety measures. This research advances the  field by providing an in-depth analysis of the structural evolution in manganese-rich DRX cathode materials. Additionally, it addresses gaps from previous research by providing insight into lithium-ion transport pathways, revealing reversible phase transformations and providing guidance for designing high-performing cathodes.

DNA Gene Editing 

Hannah Ghasemi, a researcher in the UCSB Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, has found that incorporating interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) into template DNA improves nonviral gene editing efficiency, thereby providing a crucial contribution to the field of gene editing. ICLS are defined by Ghasemi as “substrates for the FA DNA repair pathway.” This research has implications for enhanced laboratory techniques, the development of remodeled strategies for treating diseases and a more nuanced understanding of DNA repair mechanisms.

Previously, nonviral gene editing did not have high-efficiency rates, particularly in homology-directed repair (HDR) processes, a repair process occurring naturally in cells that can be harnessed within gene editing techniques. This study used a combination of molecular biology techniques, data analytics and gene editing workflows to investigate and establish the effects of incorporating ICLS into template DNA on nonviral gene editing outcomes. Findings were gathered through comparative analyses, providing important information in regard to enhancing homology direct repair efficiency, all the while keeping detailed tracking of the gene editing processes.

The outcome of this paper shows that when crosslinks are combined with DNA molecules, there is an improvement of homology-directed repair, revealing a significant improvement in nonviral gene editing workflows. The researchers observed an increase in mediated gene editing when using template DNA molecules in comparison to uncrosslinked templates. This study provides important information to developing improved nonviral gene editing techniques, in addition to expanding the applications of HDR in laboratory settings and potential therapeutic interventions.