Back to Basics

Discovery Research updates

Illustration by Justine Ross

How Do Fruit Flies Tell Time?

Almost every living thing on Earth has a circadian rhythm, the biological clock that controls both physiology and behavior of organisms over a 24-hour period. But how do these clocks work within living cells?

Using the relatively simple clocks found in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), researchers in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, including Yangbo Xiao, Ph.D., Ye Yuan, Ph.D., and Swathi Yadlapalli, Ph.D., revealed that the subcellular location of clock proteins and genes fluctuates with the daily passage of time, indicating that spatial information is translated into time-related signals. Their findings were recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Your cells are making key clock proteins and once you have high enough levels, those proteins enter the nucleus and stop their own mRNA production," says Yadlapalli. "Genes are being moved to the edges of the nucleus within our cells then back again, essentially every 12 hours, every single day —  throughout the life of the organism." This movement regulates the circadian rhythm.

Kelly Malcom


Microscopic Imaging Without a Microscope?

Traditional imaging techniques only allow for the study of a handful of genes at a time, but a new technique, developed by Jun Hee Lee, Ph.D. and his team, uses high-throughput sequencing, instead of a microscope, to obtain ultra-high-resolution images of gene expression from a tissue slide. The technology, which they call Seq-Scope, enables a researcher to see every gene expressed at incredibly high resolution: 0.6 micrometers or 66 times smaller than a human hair — beating current methods by multiple orders of magnitude.

"We have made a microdevice that you can overlay with a tissue sample and sequence everything within it with a barcode," says Lee, associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology. The barcodes allow a computer to locate every gene within a tissue sample, creating a Google-like database. The work is described in an article published in Cell. Lee says the technology "could accelerate scientific discoveries and might lead to a new paradigm in molecular diagnosis." —KM


"Springing Forward" Affects Early Birds Less Than Night Owls

People whose genetic profile makes them more likely to be "early birds" can adjust to the switch to Daylight Saving Time (DST) in a few days, says a recent study published in Scientific Reports. But those who tend to be "night owls" could take more than a week to get back on track. Margit Burmeister, Ph.D., the paper's senior author, associate chair and professor in the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, and professor of human genetics, says the study shows that "DST makes everything worse."

Previous studies of DST's negative effects on things like rates of heart attacks and car accidents "mostly comes from looking for associations in large data pools after the fact," she said. "These data from direct monitoring and genetic testing allow us to directly see the effect, and to see the differences between people with different circadian rhythm tendencies." —Kara Gavin

More Articles About: Basic Science discovery Research News lab research
Featured News & Stories Minding Memory with a microphone and a shadow of a microphone on a blue background
Minding Memory
Dementia as a Global Challenge – the International Partners Study of the HRS
According to an estimate published in 2015, the global prevalence of dementia was projected to nearly triple between 2015 and 2050, growing from 46 million to over 130 million people globally. And of that worldwide share, 70% of those with dementia will be in low- and middle-income countries. Tackling and ideally preventing dementia requires a global perspective. In this episode, Matt & Donovan speak with Dr. Lindsay Kobayashi, a faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health whose research focuses on the social epidemiology of aging from a global perspective. Dr. Kobayashi introduces us to a whole new world of data available to help researchers tackle dementia as a global challenge.
Minding Memory with a microphone and a shadow of a microphone on a blue background
Minding Memory
Dementia at the End of Life
Over thirty percent of individuals living with dementia living in the US each year die either of or with dementia – and almost half of those enrolled in hospice have dementia. As with so many other types of healthcare, there are disparities in both who enrolls in hospice as well as the type of care these individuals receive after enrollment. In this episode, Matt & Donovan talk with Dr. Lauren Hunt from UCSF, an expert in hospice care for persons living with dementia, about dementia at the end of life.
Health Lab Podcast in brackets with a background with a dark blue translucent layers over cells
Health Lab Podcast
Spreading Access to STI Healthcare for Partners
A study explores how to better provide resources to sexual partners of those with STIs. Visit Health Lab to read the full story
Michigan Medicine neuroscientist Huda Akil, Ph.D., accepts National Medal of Science from President Joe Biden.
News Release
U-M neuroscientist Huda Akil, Ph.D., wins National Medal of Science
Distinguished U-M neuroscientist Huda Akil, Ph.D., has received the nation’s highest scientific honor – the National Medal of Science -- for her contributions to science and their impact on humankind’s understanding of depression, anxiety, addiction and more.
Minding Memory with a microphone and a shadow of a microphone on a blue background
Minding Memory
The Long-Term Care Data Cooperative: Your One Stop Shop for Nursing Home Data
In this episode, Donovan & Matt talk with health services researcher Betsy White from Brown University about a unique new resource for researchers called the Long-Term Data Cooperative, a provider-led data sharing collaboratory that puts together nursing home EHR data from EHR vendors that can be linked to Medicare claims. This powerful tool is made available to researchers through an online application process.
Health Lab Podcast in brackets with a background with a dark blue translucent layers over cells
Health Lab Podcast
A Recent Study Shows Overwhelmingly Positive Responses from Patients Years After Having Gender-Affirming Mastectomies
A study seeks to determine post surgery outcomes from patients.