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New MU Metagenomics Center to Make Important Research Process Cheaper, Faster

University of Missouri officials celebrate the opening of the MU Metagenomics Center, located at Discovery Ridge Research Park. The new center will serve as a comprehensive resource for microbiological research performed at Mizzou, other universities and private entities around the country.

Cultural Backgrounds of Media Organizations Affect International News Coverage, Study Finds

For most major events around the world, public access is only available through the media. In a new study, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Journalism examined the photographic news coverage of a visit Pope Francis made to Cuba to determine how major media outlets from different countries covered the international event. T.J. Thomson, a doctoral candidate at Mizzou, found that the cultural values of the photojournalists’ home countries affected the ways in which the pope’s visit was framed by each media outlet.

3.3 Million-Year-Old Fossil Reveals the Antiquity of the Human Spine

For more than 3 million years, Selam lay silent and still. Eager to tell her story, the almost perfect fossil skeleton of a 2 1/2 year-old toddler was discovered at Dikika, Ethiopia—and she had a lot to say. An international research team slowly chipped away at the sandstone surrounding Selam at the National Museums of Ethiopia to reveal something remarkable—even though millions of years have passed, she’s a lot like us. Selam, which means “peace” in the Ethiopian Amharic language, was an early human relative from the species Australopithecus afarensis—the same species as the famous Lucy skeleton. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, indicate that Selam possesses the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative, and her vertebral bones, neck and rib cage are mainly intact. This new research demonstrates that portions of the human skeletal structure were established millions of years earlier than previously thought.

Exposure to BPA Potentially Induces Permanent Reprogramming of Painted Turtles’ Brains

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as food storage containers, water bottles and certain resins. In previous studies, Cheryl Rosenfeld, an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center, along with other researchers at the University of Missouri, Westminster College and the Saint Louis Zoo, determined that BPA can disrupt sexual function and behavior in painted turtles. Now, the team has identified the genetic pathways that are altered as a result of BPA exposure during early development.

Rare Feline Genetic Disorders Identified Through Whole Genome Sequencing at MU

Whole genome sequencing (WGS), which is the process of determining an organism’s complete DNA sequence, can be used to identify DNA anomalies that cause disease. Identifying disease-causing DNA abnormalities allows clinicians to better predict an effective course of treatment for the patient. Now, in a series of recent studies, scientists at the University of Missouri are using whole genome sequencing through the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Consortium to identify genetic variants that cause rare diseases, such as progressive retinal atrophy and Niemann-Pick type 1, a fatal disorder in domestic cats. Findings from the study could help feline preservationists implement breeding strategies in captivity for rare and endangered species such as the African black-footed cat.

Fighting Cancer: New Microscopic Technique Could Help Detect, Diagnose Metastatic Melanomas

The fight against skin cancer just got a new weapon. For years, melanoma researchers have studied samples that were considered uniform in size and color, making them easier to examine by more conventional means. But melanomas don’t always come in the same shape and hue; often, melanomas are irregular and dark, making them difficult to investigate. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have devised a new tool to detect and analyze single melanoma cells that are more representative of the skin cancers developed by most patients. The study, recently reported in Analyst published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, outlines the new techniques that could lead to better and faster diagnoses for the life-threatening disease.

Biomarker Test for Lou Gehrig’s Disease Useful in Diagnosing Canine Neurodegenerative Disease

In 2009, Joan Coates, a veterinary neurologist, along with other researchers at the University of Missouri and the Broad Institute at MIT/Harvard, found a genetic link between degenerative myelopathy (DM) in dogs and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease in people. Now, researchers have found that a biomarker test that helps diagnose ALS also can assist with determining a diagnosis for degenerative myelopathy. Coates and her research team are seeking clinical trial participants to evaluate a treatment for canine DM.

Servers Perceive Well-Dressed Diners as Better Tippers, May Result in Better Service, Study Finds

With tipping a central part of the American restaurant industry, better service often is attributed to whether or not a server believes a customer will be a good tipper. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that restaurant servers often use stereotypes to determine which customers will leave better tips. Dae-Young Kim, an associate professor of hospitality management in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, says that servers believe well-dressed customers are the most likely to leave good tips. The researchers say this could result in those well-dressed diners receiving better service.

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