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Phage “cocktail” wipes out 99% of E. coli in meat, spinach

April 1, 2014 3:24 pm | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteriophages are viruses that target and kill bacteria. Recent research at Purdue Univ. shows that treating food products with select bacteriophages could significantly reduce concentrations of E. coli. The study demonstrated that an injection of bacteriophages nearly eradicated a toxin-producing strain of E. coli in contaminated spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing E. coli concentrations by about 99%.

Ancient whodunit may be solved: The microbes did it!

April 1, 2014 8:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90% of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out in what was the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may have found enough evidence to convict the guilty parties, but you’ll need a microscope to see the killers.

New micro-environment could be major advance for stem cell growth strategies

April 1, 2014 8:18 am | News | Comments

Stem cells have the potential to repair human tissue and maintain organ function in chronic disease, but a major problem has been how to mass-produce such a complex living material. Scientists in the U.K. have now developed a new substance which could simplify the manufacture of therapeutic cells by allowing both self-renewal of cells and evolution into cardiomyocyte cells.

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Vibration may help heal chronic wounds, researchers say

March 31, 2014 3:33 pm | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Wounds may heal more quickly if exposed to low-intensity vibration, report researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago. The finding, in mice, may hold promise for the 18 million Americans who have type 2 diabetes, and especially the quarter of them who will eventually suffer from foot ulcers. Their wounds tend to heal slowly and can become chronic or worsen rapidly.

The circadian clock: An orchestra with many conductors

March 31, 2014 7:55 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New findings challenge the prevailing wisdom about how our body clocks are organized, and suggest that interactions among neurons that govern circadian rhythms are more complex than originally thought. A Univ. of Michigan team looked at the circadian clock neuron network in fruit flies, which is functionally similar to that of mammals, but at only 150 clock neurons is much simpler.

Scientists develop largest developmental proteomic data set for any animal

March 28, 2014 8:49 am | by Gene Stowe and Marissa Gebhard, Univ. of Notre Dame | News | Comments

Now that the human genome is sequenced, researchers are focusing on the study of the proteome, which is the protein content of an organism, tissue or cell. Bioanalytical chemists at Univ. of Notre Dame have successfully tracked the changing patterns of protein expression during early development of African clawed frog embryos, producing the largest data set on developmental proteomics for any organism.

Researcher invents “mini heart” to help return venous blood

March 27, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

A new organ has been developed at George Washington Univ. to help return blood flow from veins lacking functional valves. A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein acting as a 'mini heart' to aid blood flow through venous segments. The cuff can be made of a patient’s own adult stem cells, eliminating the chance of implant rejection.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

March 27, 2014 8:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

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Researchers engineer resistance to ionic liquids in biofuel microbes

March 26, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a bacterium native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.

Desktop human “body” could reduce need for animal drug tests

March 26, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Call it “homo minutus”. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing four human organ constructs (liver, heart, lung and kidney) that will work together to serve as a drug and toxicity analysis system that can mimic the actual response of human organs. Called ATHENA, for Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer, the system will fit neatly on a desk.

Last drinks: Brain’s mechanism knows when to stop

March 26, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

A new brain imaging study in Australia found a “stop mechanism” that determined brain signals telling the individual to stop drinking water when no longer thirsty. The study, which used magnetic resonance imaging, also gauged the brain effects of drinking more water than required.

Engineer builds instrument to study effects of genes, environment on plant traits

March 26, 2014 8:16 am | by Mike Krapfl, News Service, Iowa State Univ. | News | Comments

Let’s say plant scientists want to develop new lines of corn that will better tolerate long stretches of hot, dry weather. How can they precisely assess the performance of those new plants in different environmental conditions? Field tests can provide some answers. Greenhouse tests can provide some more. But how can plant scientists get a true picture of a plant’s growth and traits under a variety of controlled environmental conditions?

Students virtually dissect hologram-like 3-D cadaver

March 26, 2014 7:49 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The 3-D virtual reality cadaver floats in space like a hologram on an invisible gurney. Univ. of Michigan 3-D Lab employee Sean Petty stands a few inches away. Petty wears special glasses and pilots a joystick to arbitrarily slice away sections of the cadaver. He enlarges and turns the body for a better view of the detailed anatomy inside.

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New method automatically tracks biological particles in live cell microscopy images

March 25, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

In order to track the movements of biological particles in a cell, scientists at Heidelberg Univ. and the German Cancer Research Center have developed a powerful analysis method for live cell microscopy images. This so-called probabilistic particle tracking method is automatic, computer-based and can be used for time-resolved 2-D and 3-D microscopy image data.

Microfluidic device has artificial arteries, measures blood clotting

March 24, 2014 3:53 pm | by Brett Israel, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

A new microfluidic method for evaluating drugs commonly used for preventing heart attacks has found that while aspirin can prevent dangerous blood clots in some at-risk patients, it may not be effective in all patients with narrowed arteries. The study, a first in the examination of heart attack prevention drugs, used a device that simulated blood flowing through narrowed coronary arteries to assess effects of anti-clotting drugs.

Cells get ready for their close-up

March 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists developed a type of microscopy that allowed them to detail the interior of a living cell in 3-D, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density. Now the researchers have adapted that method so they can image cells as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel.

Algae may be a potential source of biofuels, biochemicals even in cool climate

March 20, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

They need warmth to grow, but algae don’t necessarily need light. Experts in Finland, where warmer weather is rare, say it makes sense to link algae cultivation to industrial operations where residual heat is available to heat algae cultivation ponds or reactors. Recent research there shows that such an approach could be profitably implemented.

Frozen for 1,600 years, Antarctic moss revived

March 19, 2014 8:43 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have revived a moss plant that was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun. Dug up from Antarctica, the simple moss was about 1,600 years old, black and looked dead. But when it was thawed in a British lab's incubator, it grew again.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Tension triggers muscle building

March 18, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

Skeletal muscles are built from small contractile units, the sarcomeres. Many of these sarcomeres are connected in a well-ordered series to form myofibrils that span from one muscle end to the other. Scientists recently identified a key mechanism how this basic muscle architecture is built during development.

Data-mining for crystal “gold” at SLAC’s x-ray laser

March 17, 2014 9:21 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new tool for analyzing mountains of data from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Linac Coherent Lightsource x-ray laser can produce high-quality images of important proteins using fewer samples. Scientists hope to use it to reveal the structures and functions of proteins that have proven elusive, as well as mine data from past experiments for new information.

An equation to describe the competition between genes

March 17, 2014 8:08 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions.

In the laboratory, scientists coax E. coli to resist radiation damage

March 17, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Capitalizing on the ability of an organism to evolve in response to punishment from a hostile environment, scientists have coaxed the model bacterium Escherichia coli to dramatically resist ionizing radiation and, in the process, reveal the genetic mechanisms that make the feat possible. The study provides evidence that just a handful of genetic mutations give E. coli the capacity to withstand doses of radiation.

Nasty nanoinjectors pose a new target for antibiotic research

March 14, 2014 12:03 pm | News | Comments

If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.

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