Scientists awarded NWO ENW-KLEIN subsidy for innovative research

How do the laws of physics affect the mechanics of plant growth? And, how can science help prevent inbreeding in endangered species with a limited population? Three Wageningen University & Research scientists are to receive an ENW-KLEIN grant for innovative and cutting edge research to seek answers to these questions.

Genetic health of Asian elephants

Dr Mirte Bosse in coorperation with Diergaarde Blijdorp

Endangered species often live in small, fragmented populations, which are impacted by inbreeding and genetic defects. To overcome these issues and protect the species, we need to get a better hold of the genetic characteristics and how we can adjust our management strategy. In this project, scientists use genome sequences from the European zoo population of Asian elephants to map the different sub-species and their health. Using computer simulations, the scientists then develop strategies to mitigate genetic problems and optimise the possible reintroduction into the wild.

How physics and mechanics influence plants

Prof. Dr Dolf Weijers and prof. Dr ir Joris Sprakel

Dolf Weijers and Joris Sprakel continue to study how plants are governed by the laws of physics and mechanics, using their- proprietary – new technology. These two researchers’ study is conducted on the interface of biology, physics and mechanics. Plant cells are continuously exposed to mechanical stress during their growth and development. Knowledge of the role of mechanical stimuli is essential in understanding how multicellular organisms develop. Cells feel the impact of physical forces, for example, when adjacent cells grow and thus create pressure. These mechanical stimuli are translated into chemical signals that impact the cell’s biochemistry. This, in turn, leads to changes in gene activity. This complex feedback cycle, in which physical sensations are translated into biochemical and genetic reactions, has fundamental consequences for the way in which plant cells and tissues grow, divide and determine their identity. Nonetheless, how exactly this works is yet unclear. The researchers will continue their work in this field. ​

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