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The Lead

Protein shake-up

March 26, 2015 10:47 am | by Chris Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For living organisms proteins are an essential part of their body system and are needed to thrive. In recent years, a certain class of proteins has challenged researchers’ conventional notion that proteins have a static and well-defined structure. It’s thought that mutations in these proteins, known as intrinsically disordered proteins, are associated with neurodegenerative changes, cardiovascular disorders and diseases like cancer.

A new kind of light bulb

March 26, 2015 8:25 am | by Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

How many researchers does it take to change a light bulb? And how many lives could they save by...

Researchers find promising new biomarkers for concussion

March 25, 2015 10:50 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

By looking at the molecular aftermath of concussion in an unusual way, a team of researchers at...

Turn the light on

March 25, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In the on-going search for a better understanding of how the brain and central nervous system...

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Artificial hand responds to sensitively thanks to muscles made from smart metal wires

March 24, 2015 3:52 pm | by Saarland University | News | Comments

Engineers have taken a leaf out of nature's book by equipping an artificial hand with muscles made from shape-memory wire. The new technology enables the fabrication of flexible and lightweight robot hands for industrial applications and novel prosthetic devices. 

Catching and releasing tiny molecules

March 23, 2015 1:47 pm | by Paul Karoff, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Employing an ingenious microfluidic design that combines chemical and mechanical properties, a team of Harvard Univ. scientists has demonstrated a new way of detecting and extracting biomolecules from fluid mixtures. The approach requires fewer steps, uses less energy, and achieves better performance than several techniques currently in use and could lead to better technologies for medical diagnostics and chemical purification.

Sewage could be a source of valuable metals, critical elements

March 23, 2015 8:42 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Poop could be a goldmine, literally. Surprisingly, treated solid waste contains gold, silver and other metals, as well as rare elements such as palladium and vanadium that are used in electronics and alloys. Now researchers are looking at identifying the metals that are getting flushed and how they can be recovered. This could decrease the need for mining and reduce the unwanted release of metals into the environment.

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FDA approves genetically engineered potatoes, apples

March 20, 2015 2:06 pm | by Mary Clare Jalonick And Keith Ridler, Associated Press | News | Comments

Potatoes that won't bruise and apples that won't brown are a step closer to U.S. grocery store aisles. The federal Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the genetically engineered foods, saying they are "as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts."

Bioinformatics tool for metagenome analysis

March 20, 2015 10:07 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new method for DNA analysis of microbial communities such as those found in the ocean, the soil and our own guts. Metagenomics is the study of entire microbial communities using genomics.

Mapping redox switches in cyanobacteria advances use as biofuel

March 20, 2015 8:19 am | by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Chemical reactions involving reduction and oxidation, or redox, play a key role in regulating photosynthesis in plants and metabolism in animals and humans, keeping things running on an even keel. Now, in a recently published study, a team of scientists shed light on the role redox plays in cyanobacteria, tiny organisms with the potential to produce a lot of energy.

Researchers create fast-growing trees that are easier to turn into fuel

March 19, 2015 7:50 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that manipulation of a specific gene in a hardwood tree species not only makes it easier to break down the wood into fuel, but also significantly increases tree growth. In a paper, the researchers describe how decreasing the expression of a gene called GAUT12.1 leads to a reduction in xylan and pectin.

The secret to an effortless, split-second slime attack

March 17, 2015 1:47 pm | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

The velvet worm is a slow-moving, unassuming creature. With its soft body, probing antennae and stubby legs, it looks like a slug on stilts as it creeps along damp logs in tropical climates. But it has a secret weapon. In the dark of night, when an unsuspecting cricket or termite crosses its path, the worm unleashes an instantaneous torrent of slime.

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Filtration Revealed Through Tests of Precision

March 17, 2015 9:29 am | by Chandreyee Das, PhD, Sample Preparation and Protein Detection, EMD Millipore | Articles | Comments

Repeatability underlies a researcher’s ability to control variation and increase sensitivity in an experiment. For sensitive analyses, such as cell-based assays, mass spectrometry and high-resolution protein structure determination, precise repeatability requires careful factorial design of experiments by systematically varying experimental parameters.

New trigger of cellular self-destruction identified

March 17, 2015 8:03 am | by Elizabeth Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a bacterial protein that triggers a self-inflicted cell death pathway in immune system cells and could lead to a better understanding of an important cellular structure. The protein initiates a cascade of events that leads the lysosome to open holes in its membrane and release enzymes that destroy the cell.

Consistency: The key to success in bread baking, biology

March 16, 2015 4:08 pm | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Whether you're baking bread or building an organism, the key to success is consistently adding ingredients in the correct order and in the right amounts, according to a new genetic study by Univ. of Michigan researchers. Using the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the team developed a novel way to disentangle the effects of random genetic mutations and natural selection on the evolution of gene expression.

How plants regulate vitamin C production

March 13, 2015 3:17 pm | by Queensland Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

A Queensland Univ. of Technology scientist has unraveled the way in which plants regulate their levels of vitamin C, the vitamin essential for preventing iron deficiency anemia and conditions such as scurvy. Prof. Roger Hellens has discovered the mechanism plants use to regulate the levels of vitamin C in each of their cells in response to the environment.

Unlocking the mysteries of wound healing

March 13, 2015 9:49 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. of Arizona Communications | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have discovered what causes and regulates collective cell migration, one of the most universal but least understood biological processes in all living organisms. The findings shed light on the mechanisms of cell migration, particularly in the wound healing process. The results also represent a major advancement for regenerative medicine.

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Unique proteins found in heat-loving organisms bind well to plant matter

March 13, 2015 8:36 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Unique proteins newly discovered in heat-loving bacteria are more than capable of attaching themselves to plant cellulose, possibly paving the way for more efficient methods of converting plant matter into biofuels. The unusual proteins, called tapirins, bind tightly to cellulose, a key structural component of plant cell walls, enabling these bacteria to break down cellulose.

Using x-ray vision to probe early stages of DNA “photocopying”

March 12, 2015 8:25 am | by Catherine Kolf, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Univ. have created a 3-D model of a complex protein machine, ORC, which helps prepare DNA to be duplicated. Like an image of a criminal suspect, the intricate model of ORC has helped build a "profile" of the activities of this crucial "protein of interest." But the new information has uncovered another mystery.

Study yields insights into how plant cells grow

March 12, 2015 8:06 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A study by Purdue Univ. plant scientists and Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers advances our understanding of how plants control their shape and development at the cellular level. Their findings could help researchers engineer better cotton fibers, improve plant defense against insects, alter plant architecture and toughen root response to drought.

How 3-D bioprinting could address the shortage of organ donations

March 12, 2015 7:49 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Three-dimensional bioprinting has come a long way since its early days when a bioengineer replaced the ink in his desktop printer with living cells. Scientists have since successfully printed small patches of tissue. Could it someday allow us to custom-print human organs for patients in need of transplants?

Team Sees Circadian Clock Gene that Strengthens Crop

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by Dartmouth | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a circadian clock gene that helps a key crop plant to withstand extreme cold and salty conditions, which could help to develop hardier crops with improved yield. The next step is to extend these studies to corn, rice, wheat and soybean, the world's four major crops.  

Researchers map switches that shaped the evolution of the human brain

March 6, 2015 1:10 pm | by Lindsay Borthwick, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale Univ. School of Medicine. Unlike in rhesus monkeys and mice, these switches show increased activity in humans, where they may drive the expression of genes in the cerebral cortex.

Fluid-filled pores separate materials with fine precision

March 6, 2015 10:10 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

In nature, pores can continuously control how a living organism absorbs or excretes fluids, vapors and solids in response to its environment; for example, tiny holes invisible to the naked eye called stomata cover a plant's leaves and stems as gated openings through which oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapors are transported in and out during photosynthesis and respiration.

Twin copies of gene pair up in embryonic stem cells at critical moment in differentiation

March 6, 2015 8:45 am | by Peter Tarr, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine a pair of twins that everyone believed to be estranged, who turn out to be closer than anyone knew. A genetic version of this heartwarming tale might be taking place in our cells. We and other mammals have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Each copy, or "allele," was thought to remain physically apart from the other in the cell nucleus, but a new study finds that alleles can and do pair up in mammalian cells.

Plants use water wisely—mostly

March 5, 2015 8:49 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Plants trade water for carbon: Every liter of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian researchers and published in Nature Climate Change, shows that plants trade their water wisely, with different plant species having different trading strategies depending on how much it costs them to obtain their water.

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

March 4, 2015 4:27 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute have found a way to increase the production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass fermented by yeast. By introducing new metabolic pathways into the yeast, they enable the microbes to efficiently ferment cellulose and hemicellulose, the two major families of sugar found in the plant cell wall, without the need of environmentally harsh pre-treatments or expensive enzyme cocktails.

Fossil jaw sheds light on turning point in human evolution

March 4, 2015 3:09 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

A fragment of jawbone found in Ethiopia is the oldest known fossil from an evolutionary tree branch that eventually led to modern humans, scientist reported Wednesday. The fossil comes from very close to the time that our branch split away from more ape-like ancestors best known for the fossil skeleton Lucy. So it gives a rare glimpse of what very early members of our branch looked like.

Neuroscientists identify new way brain areas communicate

March 4, 2015 11:04 am | by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | News | Comments

Carnegie Mellon Univ. neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain’s striatum. The findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex.

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