Plant Biology
Plant Biology
To match human population growth, world agricultural production must double over the next quarter century. At Salk, we study plants so that humans will have the food, clothing, energy and medicines they need now and in the future.

Plant Biology

Journals of Gerontology Series A

Natural plant compound may reduce mental effects of aging

Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist in the lab of Dave Schubert, found further evidence that a natural compound in strawberries reduces cognitive deficits and in inflammation associated with aging in mice. The work, which appeared in the Journals of Gerontology Series A in June 2017, builds on the team’s previous research into the antioxidant fisetin, finding it could help treat age-related mental decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s or stroke.

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Cell Systems

Subway networks mimic plant architectures

It might seem like a tomato plant and a subway system don’t have much in common, but both, it turns out, are networks that strive to make similar tradeoffs between cost and performance. Using 3D laser scans of growing plants, Assistant Professor Saket Navlakha, Professor and HHMI Investigator Joanne Chory, first author Adam Conn and colleagues found that the same universal design principles that humans use to engineer networks like subways also guide the shapes of plant branching architectures. The work, which appears in the July 26, 2017, issue of Cell Systems, could direct strategies to increase crop yields or breed plants better adapted to climate change.
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Current Biology

How plants grow like human brains

Plants and brains are more alike than you might think.

Salk scientists Saket Navlakha, Charles Stevens, Joanne Chory and colleagues discovered that the mathematical rules governing how plants grow are similar to how brain cells sprout connections.

The team gathered data from 3D laser scans of plants to build a statistical description of theoretically possible plant shapes by studying the plant’s branch density function, which depicts the likelihood of finding a branch at any point in the space surrounding a plant. Basically, this says that branch growth is densest near the plant’s center and gets less dense farther out following a bell curve. This property turned out to be universal regardless of a plant’s growth conditions (sun versus shade, for example). The work, published in Current Biology on July 6, 2017, and based on data from 3D laser scanning of plants, suggests there may be universal rules of logic governing branching growth across many biological systems.

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