Plant breeding is a tricky, laborious process, in most circumstances. You cross two plants with qualities you want, and then you have to wait for the seedlings to grow to the maturity in order to find out whether all your hard work has paid off. Being able to tell, at a very early age, whether the things are what you want them to be would really speed up the process, and that’s what scientists are trying to do – by better understanding the markers in the rice genome, they’re helping to develop strains of salt-resistant rice in areas hit by the Japanese tsunami last year.
Antibiotics are becoming less and less useful, and people are dying because of it. Drug resistance in bacteria is one of the possible game-changers for this century, but a new line of research could push that problem back by a decade or two.
Bacteriophages are viruses that prey on bacteria. They work the same way that other viruses do – injecting genetic material into a cell to make it produce more viruses. If scientists can engineer varieties of phages that can inject genetic material into bacteria that either kills them or reduces their drug resistance, then we have a new way to keep the bugs in check.