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The Lead

Learning from biology to accelerate discovery

July 6, 2015 11:30 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A spider's web is one of the most intricate constructions in nature, but its precious silk has more than one use. Silk threads can be used as draglines, guidelines, anchors, pheromonal trails, nest lining or even food. And each use requires a slightly different type of silk, optimized for its function.

Bioprinted “play dough” capable of cell and protein transfer

July 6, 2015 9:51 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Scientists have developed a new technique allowing the bioprinting at ambient temperatures of a...

Discovery of nanotubes offers new clues about cell-to-cell communication

July 6, 2015 8:27 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

When it comes to communicating with each other, some cells may be more "old school" than was...

Gas sensors promise advances in Earth science

July 6, 2015 8:19 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. has been awarded a $1 million grant by the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop gas-...

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Study: Targeted LEDs could provide efficient lighting for plants grown in space

July 2, 2015 8:54 am | by Purdue University | News | Comments

A Purdue University study shows that targeting plants with red and blue LEDs provides energy-efficient lighting in contained environments, a finding that could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration.

Scientists develop potential new class of cancer drugs in lab

June 29, 2015 8:48 am | by Saint Louis University | News | Comments

In research published in Cancer Cell, Thomas Burris, chair of pharmacology and physiology at Saint Louis University, has, for the first time, found a way to stop cancer cell growth by targeting the Warburg Effect, a trait of cancer cell metabolism that scientists have been eager to exploit.

Engineering new routes to biochemicals

June 26, 2015 6:51 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Living cells can make a vast range of products for us, but they don’t always do it in the most straightforward or efficient way. Shota Atsumi, a chemistry professor at the Univ. of California, Davis, aims to address that through “synthetic biology”: designing and building new biochemical pathways within living cells, based on existing pathways from other living things.

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Re-energizing antibiotics in the war against infections

June 24, 2015 5:00 pm | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

Antibiotics are the mainstay in the treatment of bacterial infections, and together with vaccines, have enabled the near eradication of infectious diseases in developed countries. However, the overuse of antibiotics has also led to an alarming rise in resistant bacteria that can outsmart antibiotics using different mechanisms. Some pathogenic bacteria are thus becoming almost untreatable.

Unlocking fermentation secrets opens the door to new biofuels

June 24, 2015 4:30 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have, for the first time, uncovered the complex interdependence and orchestration of metabolic reactions, gene regulation and environmental cues of clostridial metabolism, providing new insights for advanced biofuel development.

Spectrum of life

June 23, 2015 12:15 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To find life in the universe, it helps to know what it might look like. If there are organisms on other planets that do not rely wholly on photosynthesis, how might those worlds appear from light-years away? That’s among the questions a Univ. of Washington team sought to answer in research published in Astrobiology.

Seeing more deeply with laser light

June 22, 2015 8:47 am | by Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

A human skull, on average, is about 0.3 in thick, or roughly the depth of the latest smartphone. Human skin, on the other hand, is about 0.1 in, or about three grains of salt, deep. While these dimensions are extremely thin, they still present major hurdles for any kind of imaging with laser light.

How owls could help make wind turbines, planes quieter

June 22, 2015 7:56 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A newly designed material, which mimics the wing structure of owls, could help make wind turbines, computer fans and even planes much quieter. Early wind tunnel tests of the coating have shown a substantial reduction in noise without any noticeable effect on aerodynamics.

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How to wipe out polio and prevent its re-emergence

June 22, 2015 7:45 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Public health officials stand poised to eliminate polio from the planet. But a new study shows that the job won't be over when the last case of the horrible paralytic disease is recorded. Using disease-transmission models, a Univ. of Michigan team has demonstrated that silent transmission of poliovirus could continue for more than three years with no reported cases.

Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle

June 19, 2015 9:55 am | by European Molecular Biology Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have solved a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades: How does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function? Endocytosis is the process by which cells engulf molecules and draw them inside the cell where they perform different functions.

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

June 19, 2015 7:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression. The findings offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences.

Evolution study finds massive genome shift in one generation

June 15, 2015 10:53 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A team of biologists from Rice Univ., the Univ. of Notre Dame and three other schools has discovered that an agricultural pest that began plaguing U.S. apple growers in the 1850s likely did so after undergoing extensive and genome-wide changes in a single generation. This new result came from applying the latest tools of genome sequencing and analysis to preserved evidence from experiments carried out at Notre Dame in the 1990s.

Setting the circadian clock

June 15, 2015 7:46 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

Often referred to as the "body clock", circadian rhythm controls what time of day people are most alert, hungry, tired or physically primed due to a complex biological process that is not unique to humans. Circadian rhythms, which oscillate over a roughly 24–hr cycle in adaptation to the Earth's rotation, have been observed in most living things on the planet, and are responsible for regulating many aspects of organisms' functions.

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Scientists map surface of immune cells

June 15, 2015 7:37 am | by Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen | News | Comments

The immune system must constantly adapt to its environment in order to protect a body effectively. The so-called T cells are an important example in this regard. One of their functions is to form the immune system's "memory". Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technische Universität München recently examined the surface of precursors of these T cells and identified previously unknown proteins there.

The winner doesn't always take all

June 11, 2015 3:59 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have been able to only speculate as to why and how this strain diversity in the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus is maintained. One theory states that less competitive strains are retained in the population if they can occupy a niche of their own that the dominant bacteria cannot colonizes.

Atmospheric signs of volcanic activity could aid search for life

June 11, 2015 10:25 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without such heated internal goings-on. Now, graduate students at the Univ. of Washington have found a way to detect volcanic activity in the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, when they transit, or pass in front of their host stars.

Longstanding problem put to rest

June 11, 2015 9:51 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Comparing the genomes of different species is the basis of a great deal of modern biology. DNA sequences that are conserved across species are likely to be functionally important, while variations between members of the same species can indicate different susceptibilities to disease. The basic algorithm for determining how much two sequences of symbols have in common is now more than 40 years old.

Synthetic immune organ produces antibodies

June 11, 2015 9:32 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Cornell Univ. engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism. The engineered organ has implications for everything from rapid production of immune therapies to new frontiers in cancer or infectious disease research.

Polymer network enhances cell adhesion, growth for tissue regeneration

June 10, 2015 8:07 am | by A*STAR | News | Comments

Tissues and organs in the body are sometimes damaged to such an extent that they require artificial support to heal. Now, A*STAR researchers have used star-shaped polymers to produce a 3-D network that is both compatible with human tissue and facilitates cells to adhere and proliferate under controlled biological conditions.

Researchers isolate smallest unit of sleep to date

June 9, 2015 9:39 am | News | Comments

Washington State University Spokane scientists have grown a tiny group of brain cells that can be induced to fall asleep, wake up and even show rebound sleep after "staying up late."

Microscope technique could speed identification of deadly bacteria

June 8, 2015 9:32 am | by The Optical Society | News | Comments

A new way of rapidly identifying bacteria, which requires a slight modification to a simple microscope, may change the way doctors approach treatment for patients who develop potentially deadly infections and may also help the food industry screen against contamination with harmful pathogens, according to researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

A Window To Containment Facility Design

June 8, 2015 9:24 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

Can a high containment lab have windows? Can the traditional model of a high containment lab be turned inside out? Can a high containment facility offer better life quality? The answer to all these questions is yes. Home to three international reference labs for 10 exotic viral diseases of livestock, The Pirbright Institute focuses on virology and, specifically, animal health, including zoonotic diseases.

“Protein map” reveals traffic of life in a cell

June 8, 2015 8:20 am | by Jovana Drinjakovic, Univ. of Toronto | Videos | Comments

Protein locations in a cell have been recorded in unprecedented detail as part of a “protein map” developed by Univ. of Toronto scientists. The new map allows researchers to look much more closely into what happens in a cell when disease strikes and will also help scientists determine better treatments.

Keeping Cool

June 5, 2015 1:42 pm | by Jeffrey Goldman, Applications Director for Thermo Scientific Laboratory Products, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass. | Articles | Comments

Biobanks play an important role in enabling researchers to develop therapies for chronic diseases. Research institutions, hospitals and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have turned to biobanks as a key tool in the research of new treatments and the identification of disease biomarkers from the large cohorts of patients through the collection, storage, inventory, characterization and distribution of valuable samples.

Researchers edit plant DNA using mechanism evolved in bacteria

June 5, 2015 10:36 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have used a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas to modify the genome of a tree species for the first time. Their research, published online in New Phytologist, opens the door to more rapid and reliable gene editing of plants. By mutating specific genes in Populus, the researchers reduced the concentrations of two naturally occurring plant polymers.

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