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New paper describes how DNA avoids damage from UV light

July 31, 2014 11:42 am | by Evelyn Boswell, Montana State Univ. | News | Comments

In the same week that the U.S. surgeon general issued a lengthy report about the dangers of skin cancer, researchers at Montana State Univ. published a paper breaking new ground on how DNA responds when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The study, made possible by femtosecond lasers used for ultrafast spectroscopy, showed how DNA transfers electrons when excited by UV light.

Scientists develop new way to separate birdsong sources

July 31, 2014 10:08 am | News | Comments

A team of U.S. and Chinese scientists have...

Breakthrough in understanding of important blood protein

July 31, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

The human body contains a unique protein that has the...

Glucose “control switch” in the brain key to both diabetes types

July 31, 2014 9:36 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have pinpointed a mechanism in part of the brain that is...

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Engineering a protein to prevent brain damage from toxic agents

July 31, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

Research at New York Univ. is paving the way for a breakthrough that may prevent brain damage in civilians and military troops exposed to poisonous chemicals—particularly those in pesticides and chemical weapons. An article in ChemBioChem outlines the advancement in detoxifying organophosphates, which are compounds commonly used in pesticides and warfare agents.

Researchers find protein that fuels repair of treatment-resistant cancer cells

July 31, 2014 8:06 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Imagine you're fighting for your life but no matter how hard you hit, your opponent won't go down. The same can be said of highly treatment-resistant cancers, such as head and neck cancer, where during radiation and chemotherapy some cancer cells repair themselves, survive and thrive. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, but the late detection and treatment resistance result in a high mortality rate.

Decades-old amber collection offers new views of an ancient world

July 31, 2014 7:52 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists are searching through a massive collection of 20-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic more than 50 years ago, and the effort is yielding fresh insights into ancient tropical insects and the world they inhabited. When the collection is fully curated, a task that will take many years, it will be the largest unbiased Dominican amber collection in the world, the researchers report.

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Boosting neural pathway from gut to brain could play part in weight control

July 31, 2014 7:40 am | by Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A Purdue Univ. study found an increase in sensory nerve fibers that send signals from the gut to the brain reduces the time spent eating a meal, which could help regulate body weight. The researchers studied a mouse model with a targeted knockout of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene that decreases levels of this nerve growth factor in the gastrointestinal tract.

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

July 30, 2014 4:55 pm | by Claire Sturgeon, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass", collaborators from Illinois and Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve. The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the “Red Queen Effect,” which suggests that organisms must constantly increase fitness in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

Biologists describe mechanism promoting multiple DNA mutations

July 30, 2014 4:49 pm | by Gart Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

DNA mutations had been thought to be rare events that occur randomly throughout the genome. However, recent studies have shown that cancer development frequently involves the formation of multiple mutations that arise simultaneously and in close proximity to each other. These groups of clustered mutations are frequently found in regions where chromosomal rearrangements take place.

Study: Tumors absorb sugar for mobility

July 30, 2014 4:46 pm | by Lionel Pousaz, EPFL | News | Comments

We have long known that cancer cells monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness to join in an ordered set. Researchers are calling this behavior “mesenchymal,” and they suspect it promotes metastasis.

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

July 30, 2014 2:00 pm | News | Comments

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process. Now scientists are tapping into those secrets to develop a more environmentally friendly way to make colored plastics. Their paper on using structure—or the shapes and architectures of materials—rather than dyes, to produce color appears in Nano Letters.

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Brainwaves can predict audience reaction for TV programming

July 30, 2014 7:47 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Media and marketing experts have long sought a reliable method of forecasting responses from the general population to future products and messages. According to a study conducted at the City College of New York in partnership with Georgia Tech, it appears that the brain responses of just a few individuals are a remarkably strong predictor.

Team makes cancer glow to improve surgical outcomes

July 30, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

The best way to cure most cases of cancer is to surgically remove the tumor. The Achilles heel of this approach, however, is that the surgeon may fail to extract the entire tumor, leading to a local recurrence. With a new technique based on injectable dye and infrared light, researchers in Pennsylvania have established a new strategy to help surgeons see the entire tumor in the patient, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Researchers develop more efficient tool for tagging proteins

July 29, 2014 9:18 am | by Janne Hansen, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

DNA–protein conjugates can be used in diagnostic techniques, nanotechnology and other disciplines, but controlling the conjugation of these macromolecules can be a challenge. Scientists in Denmark have pioneered an easier method that makes it possible to direct the tagging of proteins with DNA to a particular site on the protein without genetically modifying the protein beforehand.

Stem cell advance may increase efficiency of tissue regeneration

July 29, 2014 8:52 am | by Jeffrey Norris, UCSF | News | Comments

A new stem cell discovery might one day lead to a more streamlined process for obtaining stem cells, which in turn could be used in the development of replacement tissue for failing body parts, according to Univ. of California, San Francisco scientists who reported the findings in Cell.

Mineral magic? Common mineral capable of making, breaking bonds

July 29, 2014 8:39 am | by Nikki Cassis, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

Reactions among minerals and organic compounds in hydrothermal environments are critical components of the Earth’s deep carbon cycle. They provide energy for the deep biosphere, and may have implications for the origins of life. However, very little is known about how minerals influence organic reactions. A team of researchers has demonstrated how a common mineral acts as a catalyst for specific hydrothermal organic reactions.

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New tool for characterizing plant sugar transporters

July 29, 2014 8:28 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy, has been developed by researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers have developed an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters.

New tools help neuroscientists analyze big data

July 28, 2014 4:45 pm | News | Comments

Big data can mean big headaches for scientists. A new library of software tools from Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus speeds analysis of data sets so large and complex they would take days or weeks to analyze on a single workstation, even if a single workstation could do it at all. The new tool, Thunder, should help interpret data that holds new insights into how the brain works.

Molecule could lead to new way to repair tendons

July 25, 2014 8:15 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

It’s an all-too familiar scenario for many people. You sprain your ankle or twist your knee. If you’re an adult, the initial pain is followed by a long road of recovery, with no promise that the torn ligament or tendon will ever regain its full strength. That’s because tendon and ligament cells in adults produce little collagen, the fibrous protein that is used to build new tendon and ligament tissue.

Novel virus discovered in half the world’s population

July 25, 2014 7:14 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Virologists and biologists in California have identified a highly abundant, never-before-described virus that could play a major role in obesity, diabetes. The virus, named crAssphage, has about 10 times as many base pairs of DNA as HIV and infects one of the most common types of gut bacteria. This phylum of bacteria is thought to be connected with obesity, diabetes and other gut-related diseases.

Researchers discover new way to determine cancer risk of chemicals

July 25, 2014 7:00 am | News | Comments

A new study has shown that it is possible to predict long-term cancer risk from a chemical exposure by measuring the short-term effects of that same exposure. The findings could make it possible to develop simpler and cheaper tests to screen chemicals for their potential cancer causing risk.

Just 8.2% of our DNA is “functional”

July 25, 2014 6:59 am | News | Comments

According to recently published research, scientists in the U.K. say that just 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important, or “functional”. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.

Four billion-year-old chemistry in cells today

July 25, 2014 6:58 am | News | Comments

The primordial soup theory suggests that life began in a pond or ocean as a result of the combination of metals, gases from the atmosphere and some form of energy, such as a lightning strike, to make the building blocks of proteins which would then evolve into all species. New research shows how mitochondria in cells continue to perform similar reactions in our bodies today.

Biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event

July 25, 2014 6:54 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. biology Prof. Rodolfo Dirzo and his colleagues are warning that "defaunation" could have harmful downstream effects on human health. The planet's current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But, Dirzo says, this may be reaching a tipping point.

Study reveals atomic structure of key muscle component

July 25, 2014 6:47 am | News | Comments

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and is the basis of most movement in the body. Adding to the growing fundamental understanding of the machinery of muscle cells, a group of biophysicists in Pennsylvania have published work that describes in minute detail how actin filaments are stabilized at one of their ends to form a basic muscle structure called the sarcomere.

Junk DNA not as worthless as once thought

July 24, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Around 75% of the supposed functionless DNA in the human genome is transcribed into so-called non-coding RNAs, and little is known about their function. Now, researchers have demonstrated that the production of non-coding RNAs is precisely regulated. They suspect that non-coding RNAs might play a role in regulating cellular processes or in the modified immune response following exposure to environmental toxicants.

Urban heat’s effect on the environment

July 24, 2014 9:36 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

New research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern U.S. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect—a significant tree pest—by 300%, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

July 24, 2014 8:40 am | by Sarah Bates, National Science Foundation | Videos | Comments

More than a decade ago, news of a Namibian desert beetle’s efficient water collection system inspired engineers to try and reproduce these surfaces in the laboratory. Small-scale advances in fluid physics, materials engineering and nanoscience since that time have brought them close to succeeding. And their work could have impact on a wide range of industries at the macroscale.

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