Scibraai Monday Menu #3: About singers, fossil teeth and vaccines

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This week’s Scibraai Monday Menu contains a trio of research snippets about vaccine development (read: the answer might be in tobacco), ancient fossils (the latest from Australopithecus sediba) and singing (and how water can help).

Australopithecus sediba preferred things soft and chewy

Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand played dentist and examined the teeth of Australopithecus sediba. They found that because of its molars, it was not able to eat food that was too hard and difficult to chew. Australopithecus sediba has been hypothesized to be a close relative of the genus Homo. The findings are published in Nature Communications.

Reference: Ledogar, J. et al (2016). Mechanical evidence that Australopithecus sediba was limited in its ability to eat hard foods, Nature Communications 

Tobacco could be the future of vaccines 

In a pioneering step towards using plants to produce vaccines against cervical cancer and other viruses, University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers have generated synthetic human papillomavirus-derived viral particles called pseudovirions in tobacco plants.

In an Open Access study just published in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers of UCT’s Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) report using tobacco plants to create a synthetic viral particle known as a pseudovirion.

Reference: Lambrechts, R.L. et al (2016). Production of Human papillomavirus pseudovirions in plants and their use in pseudovirion-based neutralisation assays in mammalian cells, Nature Scientific Reports

Singers need to stay hydrated too

It’s not just athletes who need to regularly check their intake of water. Singers need to do so too. A study at the University of Pretoria showed how staying hydrated has an influence on singing students’ voice quality. They were more able to sustain notes for longer and reach higher frequencies. The findings will be reported on in the Journal of Voice

Reference:  Van Wyk, L. et al (2016). The Effect of Hydration on the Voice Quality of Future Professional Vocal Performers, Journal of Voice

 

Engela Duvenage

Co-founder of SciBraai.co.za. Day job: Science writer and science communicator who loves turning research papers into news stories. Claim to fame: mother of two daughters; winner of the Izethelo Award for Outstanding Journalism (2016) from the South African fruit industry, and winner of the best technical article award (2016) as presented by the South African Agricultural Writers' Association Background: MPhil (Journalism, specialising in science journalism) and HonsBA (Psychology).

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