BBSRC backs pioneering plant research at Essex

  • Date

    Fri 10 Nov 23

Highly sensitive and non- intrusive imaging techniques will be used to understand the unique ways plants adapt to their environment thanks to funding from the BBSRC.

A project led Dr Philippe Laissue has received a BBSRC Pioneer Award as part of a £12m investment by BBSRC in research at universities across the UK.

He will work with Professor Phillip Mullineaux from the School of Life Sciences alongside Dr Michael Barros from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

They will be looking at reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are important physiological regulators found in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria.

The team believe that plants have an additional, unique way of using ROS to adapt to their environment that has so far been missed. Since plants are great at harvesting light, they must use a very gentle kind of imaging.

Dr Laissue was delighted to combine Essex’s strengths in life science and computer science. He said: “We are very honoured and excited to have this fantastic BBSRC-funded opportunity to see if we can - softly, softly - discover a new signalling pathway in plants.”

Dr Laissue is recognised internationally for his work on microscopic imaging including live 3-D microscopy and has won multiple awards for his images.

Through a Royal Society Industry Fellowship he developed a new microscope which can look at live corals and has developed techniques and technology which uses as little light as possible to follow biological events as they unfold. Less light means less damage to the observed sample, for example, cells, tissue or organisms.

62 researchers across the UK are to receive a share of £12 million from BBSRC to pursue visionary bioscience research.

From lessons in regeneration that we can learn from rejuvenating jellyfish to the effect sleep has on our genetic ageing, each of the projects will explore early-stage ideas at the frontiers of bioscience.

By drawing upon unconventional thinking and approaches, the investigators hope to make exciting discoveries with the potential to transform our understanding of the fundamental rules of life.

These new investigations aim to radically change the way we think about important biological phenomena covering plant, microbial and animal sciences.

The investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Pioneer Awards enables the pursuit of unique ideas that challenge current thinking and paradigms or open up entirely novel areas of exploration altogether.

Professor Guy Poppy, Interim Executive Chair at BBSRC, said: “Understanding the fundamental rules of life, such as the principles governing genetics, evolution and biological processes, is essential for advancing scientific knowledge. It is also imperative to societal progress.

“Many of the challenges faced by today's society, such as global food security, environmental sustainability and healthcare, are deeply rooted in biological processes.

“BBSRC is committed to understanding the rules of life and by investing in cutting-edge discovery research through schemes such as the Pioneer Awards pilot, we are expanding the horizons of human knowledge while helping to unlock innovative bio-based solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.”