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MSI researchers are studying food crops in order to develop strains that are hardier, more disease-resistant, and have better yields. Associate Professor Nathan M. Springer (Plant Biology; MSI Associate Fellow) studies variations among different lines of maize (corn). His group has profiled structural variation in the genome of different maize lines and expression differences among genotypes. They are now profiling the distribution of epigenetic marks (chemical additions to the genetic sequence) throughout the genomes of different individuals. A long-term goal of this research is to understand the contributions of epigenetic changes and structural changes to variations in characteristics within a species.
The production and use of biofuels or fossil fuels release differing amounts of air pollutants in different geographic locations at different times with associated ecological and human health effects that impose costs on society. Professor Julian D. Marshall (Civil Engineering, Institute on the Environment) and his group are using MSI to study the emissions tradeoffs between using biofuels and fossil fuels. His group uses the supercomputers to run state-of-the-science meteorological, emissions, and air-quality models. This research appears in the 2011 Annual Research Highlights. This image shows a map of annual average gridded emissions of oxides of nitrogen for the production and use of ethanol from a mix of corn and corn stover; temporal profiles are included to show variation by month of year, day of week, and hour of day.
Researchers in the group of Professor David Thomas (BMBB; MSI Fellow) study muscle proteins. The goal is to understand the fundamental molecular interactions responsible for muscle contraction or cellular movement, to determine the molecular bases of muscle disorders, and to apply the insights gained into therapeutic design. At the 2011 MSI Research Exhibition, Dr. Bengt Svensson was a finalist with his poster concerning investigations into the calcium pump in the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane (SERCA) and phospholamban, its regulatory partner in the heart (see image). An article about this research appears in the Fall 2011 MSI Research Bulletin.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical therapy used to treat a number of neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease, dystonia, and essential tremor. DBS therapy involves placing small electrodes in regions of the brain that show pathological activity, and stimulating that region with pulses of electricity. Assistant Professor Matt Johnson (Biomedical Engineering) is using MSI to create simulations of neuronal activity during DBS. This image shows a simulation of a DBS lead in the pedunculopontine nucleus for treatment of Parkinson's disease. More information about Professor Johnson's research can be found in the MSI Annual Research Highlights 2011.
The Le Sueur River Basin in southern Minnesota is a major source of sediment in the Minnesota River and in Lake Pepin. Excess sediment can adversely affect the ecosystems of rivers and lakes. Assistant Professor Karen B. Gran (Geological Sciences, University of Minnesota Duluth) is studying sediment in the Le Sueur River Basin in support of work by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which seeks to evaluate and control the condition of the river. MSI is used to store large spatial datasets used in the development and execution of the sediment routing model and to facilitate data sharing between researchers. An article about this research is in MSI's Annual Research Highlights 2011.