Wetenschap - 3 oktober 2002

English summary

The five expertise groups at Wageningen UR are currently reorganising their support staff departments.

There will be a small saving as twelve jobs will disappear, only two percent of the current total of 630 positions. The changes vary depending on the group. At Zodiac the animal group, the university side will take on more financial people in order to be able to better track the money flows within the department. Some of the academics are worried that the extra three hundred thousand euros needed for these jobs will be at the expense of education and research.

The ambitious ten-year project Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA) had its official start in Nairobi last week.

An initiative of Wageningen University, African and European researchers aim to make information on useful plants available. A databank will form the backbone, from which a website, CD-Roms and handbooks will be produced. PROTA is based on the successful PROSEA project for South-East Asian plant resources which is now coming to an end. The total budget is estimated at 16 million euro, which will enable 47 African countries to work together in a network of six regional offices to gather and record information on over 7000 useful plants. See www.prota.org

Frank Hoeberichts discovered that tomato cells commit suicide if their DNA no longer works properly.

He carried out PhD research at ATO, and hoped to find out whether so-called 'programmed cell death' played a role in the shelf life of tomatoes. While he managed to identify suicide cells using markers in isolated tomato cells in a culture, he did not succeed in doing the same in whole tomatoes. Programmed cell death is necessary for the growth and development of living organisms. The hand of a human foetus is club shaped. Fingers develop as the cells between the fingers die off. Cell death also protects humans and animals against tumours growing.

PhD student Marcus Vallero of the Environmental Technology department has discovered a bacteria from the Great Salt Lake in Utah that can survive in water that contains high levels of salt.

The bacteria is good at breaking down sulphates and Vallero is assessing the possibilities for using it in bioreactors. A number of industries have problems with very salty wastewater, including the fish processing and paper industries. Most biological purification plants use freshwater bacteria to break down waste products, but these cannot survive in salt water. Vallero is now investigating whether the Salt Lake bacteria will be a viable alternative.

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