Weekly News Bites: Hybrid rice, tastier tea, and salt substitutes

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are combining rice with animal cells, how microbes make tastier tea, and choosing flavorings and substitutes for salt to reduce the risk of hypertension.

Meaty hybrid rice may not sound very tempting, but the creators at Yonsei University say that the dish, which combines rice with animal cells, has a pleasant taste. Using stem cell techniques allowed the researchers to produce the rice, which is higher in protein than regular rice and more environmentally friendly than regular beef.

With antibiotic resistance on the rise, the race is on to develop systems to easily detect resistant bacteria. Scientists from IISC Bangalore and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research have developed a paper-based platform to help speed up detection. Paper is infused with a hydrogel that emits green fluorescence in the presence of resistant bacteria.

The taste of tea, like wine, is influenced by the soil the plants are grown in, but is there something else that can help make tea tastier? Studying 17 tea varieties, scientists from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University found that root microbes influence ammonia intake, affecting theanine production and flavor complexity.

New research on Singapore's biodiversity loss over 200 years shows that 37% of species vanished. Although this is a bleak number, it is less than previously thought! Led by the National University of Singapore, the study highlights the importance of conservation efforts for native species, especially “charismatic” species which, as the name suggests, are the attractive flora and fauna.

To manage or slow down the effects of dementia, early detection is crucial. A blood test may soon be available thanks to researchers from the University of Warwick and Fudan University. The scientists identified four proteins that can act as biomarkers, predicting dementia onset with 90% accuracy when combined with other factors such as age, gender and lifestyle.

A new study from Peking University Clinical Research Institute suggests that swapping salt for a substitute, such as potassium chloride, or flavorings like mushroom and lemon can lower the risk of high blood pressure. Replacing one third of participants’ salt intake with the above over two years protected people from hypertension, even in those with regular blood pressure.