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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.

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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.

Research update: Battling infection with microbes

March 13, 2014 8:19 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The human relationship with microbial life is complicated. At almost any supermarket, you can pick up both antibacterial soap and probiotic yogurt during the same shopping trip. Although there are types of bacteria that can make us sick, a California Institute of Technology team is most interested in the thousands of other bacteria, many already living inside our bodies, that actually keep us healthy.

Surface characteristics influence cellular growth on semiconductor material

March 12, 2014 10:03 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Changing the texture and surface characteristics of a semiconductor material at the nanoscale can influence the way that neural cells grow on the material. The finding stems from a study performed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ., the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Purdue Univ., and may have utility for developing future neural implants.

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Scientists “herd” cells in new approach to tissue engineering

March 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering.

Lignin breakthroughs serve as GPS for plant research

March 12, 2014 7:57 am | by D'Lyn Ford, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed the equivalent of GPS directions for future plant scientists to understand how plants adapt to the environment and to improve plants’ productivity and biofuel potential. Two articles published in The Plant Cell offer a step-by-step approach for studying plant traits, drawing on comprehensive, quantitative research on lignin formation in black cottonwood.

Technique uses ATP as trigger for targeted anti-cancer drug delivery

March 11, 2014 12:50 pm | News | Comments

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a new technique that uses adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP), the so-called “energy molecule,” to trigger the release of anti-cancer drugs directly into cancer cells. Early laboratory tests show it increases the effectiveness of drugs targeting breast cancer. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Laboratory in Japan weighs retraction of stem cell paper

March 11, 2014 10:39 am | by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Riken Center for Development Biology in Kobe, Japan, has been looking into questions raised over images and wording in a research paper describing a simple way of turning ordinary cells from mice into stem cells. Riken said Tuesday that it may retract the paper because of credibility and ethics issues, even though an investigation is continuing.

Sweet smell of sustainability

March 11, 2014 8:34 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the Univ. of California, Davis Dept. of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most. That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters, molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels.

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How tumors escape

March 11, 2014 7:43 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

About 90% of cancer deaths are caused by tumors that have spread from their original locations. This process, known as metastasis, requires cancer cells to break loose from their neighbors and from the supportive scaffold that gives tissues their structure. Cancer biologists have now discovered that certain proteins in this structure, known as the extracellular matrix, help cancer cells make their escape.

Revamping R&D: The New Laboratory In Your Pocket?

March 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Paul Denny-Gouldson, Vice President, Solution Strategy, IDBS | Articles | Comments

The nature of science shares striking similarities across many industry verticals. Whether it’s biologics, chemicals or new product formulations, they are all performed with a high degree of similarity from company to company. This is exemplified by the fact that R&D informatics platforms such as LIMS, ELNs and SDMS are used, and provide real benefits in all science-related sectors.

Trends in Genomics Technology

March 10, 2014 8:54 am | by Barrett Bready and John Thompson, Nabsys | Articles | Comments

Ever since the study of individual genes and RNAs was first known to be important, there has been a drive to get as detailed and complete genomic information as possible. Early technologies like the hybridization-based Southern and Northern blotting methods were tremendous advances, but allowed only a handful of genomic targets to be studied at a time.

Biomolecular tweezers facilitate study of mechanical force effects on cells

March 10, 2014 8:07 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices use opposing magnetic and electrophoretic forces to precisely stretch the cells and molecules, holding them in position so that the activity of receptors and other biochemical activity can be studied.

Synthetic biologists shine light on genetic circuit analysis

March 10, 2014 7:56 am | Videos | Comments

In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.

NASA launches new research on twins, seeking the subtle in parallel ways

March 9, 2014 11:47 pm | News | Comments

Although NASA’s Human Research Program has been researching the effects of spaceflight on the human body for decades, the March 7 announcement of 10 investigations for the study of identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly will provide a broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth-based environments.

Research on 3-D scaffolds sets new bar in lung regeneration

March 9, 2014 11:44 pm | by Jennifer Nachbur, Univ. of Vermont | News | Comments

In end-stage lung disease, transplantation is sometimes the only viable therapeutic option, but organ availability is limited and rejection presents an additional challenge. New methods and techniques in the field of tissue regeneration hold promise for this population, which includes an estimated 12.7 million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Chemists discover new class of antibiotics

March 9, 2014 11:43 pm | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Notre Dame researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug-resistant bacteria. Called oxadiazoles, the new class was discovered through in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection.  

Smartphones become “eye-phones” with new low-cost opthalmologic devices

March 7, 2014 1:22 pm | by Rosanne Spector, Stanford Univ. School of Medicine | News | Comments

Researchers at the Stanford Univ. School of Medicine have developed two inexpensive adapters that enable a smartphone to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye. The adapters make it easy for anyone with minimal training to take a picture of the eye and share it securely with other health practitioners or store it in the patient’s electronic record.

Pigment or bacteria? Researchers re-examine the idea of “color” in fossil feathers

March 7, 2014 8:33 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Paleontologists studying fossilized feathers have proposed that the shapes of certain microscopic structures inside the feathers can tell us the color of ancient birds. But new research from North Carolina State Univ. demonstrates that it is not yet possible to tell if these structures, thought to be melanosomes, are what they seem, or if they are merely the remnants of ancient bacteria.

Storing and Tracking Samples: Preserving Contents and Managing Sample Data

March 6, 2014 11:42 am | by Kiara Biagioni, Storage Tracking Product Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Samples are precious resources and integral to the research process. The information derived from them is dependent on their quality, integrity and consistency. And, many samples represent a scientist’s investment in and trust of the biomedical research process. Yet, it is not unusual for samples to go missing, to find that their labels have fallen off or that they have become unusable.

Computational tool offers new insight into key biological processes

March 6, 2014 10:45 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a computational tool designed to guide future research on biochemical pathways by identifying which components in a biological system are related to specific biochemical processes, including those processes responsible for gene expression, cell signaling, stress response and metabolism.

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