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GEN’s editor in chief, John Sterling, interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a concern to many environmentalists who research global warming. The lack of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, however, actually limits the growth of plants and their aquatic relatives, microalgae.


For plants and microalgae, carbon dioxide is vital to growth. Carbon dioxide is present in such a limited concentration that microalgae and some plants have evolved mechanisms to capture and concentrate carbon dioxide in their cells to improve photosynthetic efficiency and increase growth.


An Iowa State University researcher has now identified one of the key proteins in microalgae that is responsible for concentrating and moving that carbon dioxide into cells. During this week's podcast Dr. Martin Spalding provides additional details about his team's finding and explains why he calls it "a real breakthrough." He describes the type of protein that was discovered and discusses how common the protein is in plants.


Dr. Spalding also talks about the experimental approach his group took to demonstrate that the protein that was found was indeed the one responsible for transporting and concentrating carbon dioxide in microalgae. Now that the protein has been identified, Dr. Spalding explores some potential applications for using the gene that encodes the protein, for example, for producing biofuels and helping plants that do not have the ability to concentrate carbon dioxide to grow more rapidly.
Martin Spalding, Ph.D., Professor and Chair in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB), received a B.S. in both Environmental Science and Biochemistry in 1974, and an M.S. in Botany in 1976, from Washington State University. He received his Ph.D in Plant Physiology from the University of Wisconsin in 1979. Dr. Spalding was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Illinois from 1979-82, was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at The Australian National University in 1982, and was a postdoctoral associate and Research Assistant Professor at Michigan State University from 1983-84. He joined Iowa State University in 1984 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Botany. Dr. Spalding served as chair of the Interdepartmental Plant Physiology program at ISU from 1992 until 2000. In July 2003, he assumed the position of Chair of the new GDCB Department following reorganization of the biological sciences at ISU.

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