Research helps ID tree that 'cures 1,000 diseases'

Genetic tools developed by MIT and Malaysian researchers will help identify and preserve a Southeast Asian tree containing a substance that inhibits viruses and boosts fertility. The work is reported in the March 2003 issue of Plant Physiology. Compounds extracted from the roots of the tree may lead to useful new drugs. New genetic tools for studying the trees and other tropical plants were developed by researchers at MIT and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM).

A new branch on the tree of life

The family tree of life has a newly discovered branch. Genetic studies comparing mitochondrial DNA have revealed that what has long been thought to be the group from which insects arose, the Collembola — wingless hexapods (or “six legs”) commonly called springtails — turns out not to be closely related to insects after all. Instead, these creatures belong to a separate evolutionary lineage that predates even the separation of insects and crustaceans.