Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.
Every day, some of your cells stop dividing, and that’s a good thing. Cells that proliferate indefinitely are immortal, an essential early step in the development of most malignant tumors. Despite its importance in cancer, the process of cell immortalization is poorly understood. That’s because scientists have lacked a good way to study immortalization in human cells as it occurs during cancer progression.
Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.
Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the Moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug.
Plants bask in the sun and need its light to live, but they also coat themselves in a natural sunscreen like a sunbather on the beach, protecting themselves from damaging rays. A new study examined the properties and mechanics of the molecule plants use to absorb harmful ultraviolet-B radiation, and its SPF rating would be off the charts.
Researchers are close to commercializing a new type of medical imaging technology that could diagnose cardiovascular disease by measuring ultrasound signals from molecules exposed to a fast-pulsing laser. The system takes precise 3-D images of plaques lining arteries and identifies deposits that are likely to rupture and cause heart attacks.
Research by Purdue Univ. scientist Jon Schoonmaker and his colleagues has shown that small amounts of calcium oxide can neutralize the acid in distillers grains, a commonly used alternative to corn in many livestock feed mixes. The findings are good news for beef producers hoping to provide a more nutritious, better balanced diet to their animals while keeping their feed budgets manageable.
With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.
Antibodies, in charge of recognizing and homing in on molecular targets, are among the most useful tools in biology and medicine. Nanobodies—antibodies’ tiny cousins—can do the same tasks, for example marking molecules for research or flagging diseased cells for destruction. But, thanks to their comparative simplicity nanobodies offer the tantalizing prospect of being much easier to produce.
Geologists are letting the air out of a nagging mystery about the development of animal life on Earth. Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn’t flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth’s surface.
Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.
To understand the extent to which human activities are polluting Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, it’s important to distinguish human-made pollutants from compounds that occur naturally. A recent study co-authored by a Brown Univ. professor does just that for ammonium, a compound that is produced by human activities like agriculture, as well as by natural processes that occur in the ocean.
In the first study of its kind, Rice Univ. researchers have mapped how information flows through the genetic circuits that cause cancer cells to become metastatic. The research reveals a common pattern in the decision-making that allows cancer cells to both migrate and form new tumors.
The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, cytokinesis, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists but has been notoriously difficult to study. Now Harvard Medical School systems biologists report that they have reconstituted cytokinesis, complete with signals that direct molecular traffic, without the cell.
Stanford Univ. School of Medicine researchers have developed a new formula for delivering the therapeutic peptide apelin to heart tissue for treatment of hypertrophy, a hereditary disease commonly attributed to sudden death in athletes. The nanoscale delivery system, which dramatically increases the peptide’s stability, shows promise for treating heart disease in humans, the researchers said.
Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints, including articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly. Univ. of California, Davis biomedical engineers, exploring ways to toughen up engineered cartilage and keep natural tissues strong outside the body, report new developments.
When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammalian cells become the protective placenta or to commit to forming the baby. It’s during this critical first step that research from Michigan State Univ. has revealed key discoveries. The results provide insights into where stem cells come from, and could advance research in regenerative medicine.
Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly, but engineered replacement tissue is, mechanically, far from native tissue. Researchers in California report the use of an enzyme that has greatly improved engineering cartilage built from cultures. It promotes cross-linking and makes the material stronger.
The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When the heart is injured, beneficial immune cells are often supplanted by bone marrow cells, which cause damaging inflammation. In a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages.
People with muscular dystrophy could one day assess the effectiveness of their medication with the help of a smartphone-linked device, a new study in mice suggests. The study used a new method to process ultrasound imaging information that could lead to hand-held instruments that provide fast, convenient medical information.
Imagine being able to precisely control specific tissues of a plant to enhance desired traits without affecting the plant’s overall function. Thus a rubber tree could be manipulated to produce more natural latex. Trees grown for wood could be made with higher lignin content, making for stronger yet lighter-weight lumber.
A team led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has created a new kind of ion channel consisting of short carbon nanotubes, which can be inserted into synthetic bilayers and live cell membranes to form tiny pores that transport water, protons, small ions and DNA. These carbon nanotube “porins” have significant implications for future health care and bioengineering applications.
If the surroundings are designed to be sufficiently stimulating, even a simple computer screen is enough to generate an intense cinematic experience. After observing some 300 study subjects, researchers in Germany have concluded that the angle of viewing does not play a vital role in the cinematic experience. Instead, the presence of so-called contextual visual cues plays a greater role in actually drawing viewers into a movie.
An accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins deposits called plaques is known to cause Alzheimer’s disease. One aspect of this illness that has not received much attention is which role the structure of the brain environment plays. Researchers have discovered that macromolecules like astrocytes provide well-defined physical cues in the form of ruffles that have a crucial role in promoting healthy interactions between cells in the hippocampus.
A team led by Virginia Tech researchers studied cells found in breast and other types of connective tissue and discovered new information about cell transitions that take place during wound healing and cancer. They developed mathematical models to predict the dynamics of cell transitions, and by comparison gained new understanding of how a substance known as transforming growth factor triggers cell transformations.