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Research news from BBSRC

20 October 2006

The following stories appear in the October 2006 edition of Business, the quarterly magazine of research highlights from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Protein fingerprinting identifies bowel cancer risks
Bowel cancer kills over 16,000 people a year in the UK and researchers are using the latest in protein fingerprinting techniques to explore what predisposes some people to develop this type of cancer. By comparing the protein levels of ‘normal’ gut tissue between healthy volunteers and those with bowel cancer, researchers from the Institute of Food Research, Newcastle University and Wansbeck Hospital in Northumberland have identified a number of proteins which could help identify people at risk of developing bowel cancer and increase our understanding of the role played by diet and lifestyle.
(Page 11)

Professor Ian Johnson, Institute of Food Research,
Professor John Mathers, Newcastle University, e-mail:

Caterpillars tell us how bacteria cause disease
Caterpillars and other invertebrates are helping to provide a cheap, easy and safe way to identify the genes which help bacteria cause infections in humans. Researchers from the University of Bath have discovered a way to sort through large numbers of bacterial gene sequences by testing them in caterpillars to see how their immune systems respond. This new technique known as Rapid Virulence Annotation (RVA) allows them to pinpoint the genes which code for virulence.
(Page 12)

Andrew McLaughlin, University of Bath Press Office
Tel: 01225 386883, e-mail:

Special chip provides better picture of salmon health
How do you tell if a fish is fit and well? This is a question which has troubled farmers and biologists for years, but now scientists may have come up with the answer - using DNA chips. By studying the genes of Atlantic salmon scientists from three UK universities are developing a DNA chip to monitor the health and performance of salmon, a tool which could both save the salmon industry thousands and also help conserve dwindling wild salmon populations.
(Page 14)

Professor Alan Teale, University of Stirling,
Tel: 01786 467874, e-mail:
Professor Chris Secombes, University of Aberdeen,
Tel: 01224 272872, e-mail:
Emma Darling, University of Cardiff Press Office,
Tel: 02920 874499, e-mail:

How ants find their way
Ever wondered how ants find their way straight to the uncovered food in your kitchen? Now scientists have discovered how the humble wood ant navigates over proportionally huge distances, using just very poor eyesight and confusing and changing natural landmarks. The research could have significant benefits in the development of autonomous robots and in furthering our understanding of basic animal learning processes.
(Page 18)

Professor Thomas Collet, University of Sussex, e-mail:
Dr Paul Graham, University of Sussex,
Tel: 01273 872943, e-mail:

Welsh research leading to bigger, better bioenergy options
Considerable scope exists for the efficient production of transport fuels and platform chemicals from energy grasses. Breeding programmes of Miscanthus and high sugar grasses are part of a wider portfolio of bioenergy research at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research aimed at making energy crops more economic and easier to convert to electricity, heat or bioethanol, as well as being environmentally sustainable.
(Page 21)

Dr John Valentine, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research
Tel: 01970 823190, e-mail:



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382