The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is set to allocate £12 million to support 62 bioscience research projects across the UK. These initiatives, funded under the BBSRC Pioneer Awards, will delve into early-stage concepts at the forefront of bioscience, aiming to uncover novel insights that could potentially revolutionise our comprehension of the fundamental principles governing life.

The diverse range of projects will challenge conventional thinking about biological phenomena, encompassing plant, microbial, and animal sciences. For instance, scientists at Cardiff University will investigate the genetic mechanisms behind the Turritopsis dohrni jellyfish’s remarkable ability to revert adult cells to a youthful state, essentially granting itself a form of immortality. This research aims to reshape our understanding of aging, regenerative medicine, and developmental biology.

At the University of Birmingham, researchers will explore how horizontal gene transfer in fungi may be propelled by a class of giant transposons referred to as “starships.” These starships are believed to carry genetic material for sharing, along with the machinery required to excise and re-insert themselves into a host genome. The investigation seeks to elucidate the role of horizontal gene transfer in fungi, addressing questions in evolutionary biology and potentially offering insights into preventing the spread of fungal diseases and antibiotic resistance.

Another funded project, led by the University of Exeter, will delve into birds’ navigation during migration through magnetoreception, a phenomenon involving proteins sensing magnetic fields that influence birds’ behaviour. The research challenges existing theories by proposing a new hypothesis involving three radicals in the process, aiming to advance the understanding of avian navigation during migration.

Professor Guy Poppy, interim executive chair at BBSRC, emphasised the importance of understanding the fundamental rules of life, including genetics, evolution, and biological processes, in addressing contemporary challenges such as global food security, environmental sustainability, and healthcare. The investment in these innovative bioscience projects reflects a commitment to advancing scientific knowledge for the benefit of society.

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