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Researchers find surprising trigger of new brain cell growth

February 20, 2015 11:52 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered that the human brain can produce new neurons, but exactly how those cells are produced and what purpose they serve are not well understood. Now a study by Yale Univ. researchers shows that key developmental factors that control the formation of blood vessels are also necessary for activating brain stem cells.

New insight into fragile protein linked to cancer, autism

February 20, 2015 11:05 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

In recent years, scientists have found a surprising a connection between some people with autism and certain cancer patients: They have mutations in the same gene, one that codes for a protein critical for normal cellular health. Now scientists have reported in Biochemistry that the defects reduce the activity and stability of the protein. Their findings could someday help lead to new treatments for both sets of patients.

Evolving a bigger brain with human DNA

February 20, 2015 10:54 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The size of the human brain expanded dramatically during the course of evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities to use abstract language and do complex math. But how did the human brain get larger than that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, if almost all of our genes are the same?

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Hydrogels Fight Invasive Ants

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Pesticide sprays and baits are common tactics for managing pest ants. But sprays can have little long-term impact and carry environmental costs such as chemical contamination of soil and water sources. Water-storing crystals known as hydrogels can effectively deliver pesticide bait to invasive Argentine ants, quickly decimating a colony.

New nanogel for drug delivery

February 19, 2015 9:04 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a new type of self-healing hydrogel that could be injected through a syringe. Such gels, which can carry one or two drugs at a time, could be useful for treating cancer, macular degeneration, or heart disease, among other diseases, the researchers say.

Cancer risk linked to DNA 'wormholes'

February 19, 2015 8:58 am | by Institute of Cancer Research | News | Comments

Single-letter genetic variations within parts of the genome once dismissed as 'junk DNA' can increase cancer risk through wormhole-like effects on far-off genes, new research shows.

Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic upheavals?

February 19, 2015 8:56 am | by NYU | News | Comments

Research concludes that Earth's infrequent but predictable path around and through our Galaxy's disc may have a direct and significant effect on geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth.

Simple catalyst helps to construct complex biological scaffolds

February 18, 2015 11:01 am | by Technical Univ. Munich | News | Comments

Terpenes and their derivatives exert important biological and pharmaceutical functions. Starting out from a few basic building blocks nature elegantly builds up complex structures. Chemically particularly challenging are bridged ring systems such as eucalyptol. Chemists at the Technical Univ. Munich have developed a catalyst that initiates the formation of such compounds.

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Epigenomics of Alzheimer’s disease progression

February 18, 2015 9:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components—nature and nurture—seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in Nature.

Voltage tester for beating cardiac cells

February 18, 2015 9:36 am | by ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Electrical impulses play an important role in cells of the human body. For example, neurons use these impulses to transmit information along their branches and the body also uses them to control the contraction of muscles. The impulses are generated when special channel proteins open in the outer envelope of the cells, allowing charged molecules (ions) to enter or exit the cell. These proteins are referred to as ion channels.

Paving the way for painkillers with fewer side effects

February 18, 2015 8:40 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought alternatives to morphine that curb its side effects, including dependency, nausea and dizziness. Now, an experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has supplied the most complete atomic-scale map of such a compound docked with a cellular receptor that regulates the body’s pain response and tolerance.

Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

February 17, 2015 12:17 pm | by Univ. of Gothenburg | News | Comments

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events. For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world's surface.

Scientists shed light on controversial theory of protein structure

February 13, 2015 8:54 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A team of chemists, biochemists and mathematicians at the Univ. of Bristol have published a paper which explores how protein structures are stabilized. There are many forces that hold together the 3-D, functional structures of proteins. Despite considerable effort, understanding of these forces is still quite rudimentary.

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Shedding light on structure of key cellular “gatekeeper”

February 13, 2015 8:22 am | by Jon Nalick, Caltech | News | Comments

Facing a challenge akin to solving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while blindfolded, and without touching the pieces, many structural biochemists thought it would be impossible to determine the atomic structure of a massive cellular machine called the nuclear pore complex, which is vital for cell survival. But after 10 years of attacking the problem, a team recently solved almost a third of the puzzle.

Cerebral palsy - it can be in your genes

February 12, 2015 11:29 am | by Univ. of Adelaide | News | Comments

An international research group led by a team at the University of Adelaide has made what they believe could be the biggest discovery into cerebral palsy in 20 years.                

Evolution of a natural gene network explored by Yale researchers

February 12, 2015 11:24 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have extensive knowledge of how mutations of single genes during evolution can have a fitness cost or benefit for the host organism. However, genes are often embedded into complex regulatory networks. The role of these gene networks in evolution is less well understood. 

Engineers put the “squeeze” on human stem cells

February 10, 2015 2:10 pm | by Ioana Patringenaru, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

After using optical tweezers to squeeze a tiny bead attached to the outside of a human stem cell, researchers now know how mechanical forces can trigger a key signaling pathway in the cells. The squeeze helps to release calcium ions stored inside the cells and opens up channels in the cell membrane that allow the ions to flow into the cells, according to the study led by Univ. of California, San Diego bioengineer Yingxiao Wang.

Serotonin-deficient brains more vulnerable to social stress

February 10, 2015 8:48 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Mice genetically deficient in serotonin, a crucial brain chemical implicated in clinical depression, are more vulnerable than their normal littermates to social stressors, according to a Duke Univ. study. Following exposure to stress, the serotonin-deficient mice also did not respond to a standard antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac), which works by boosting serotonin transmission between neighboring neurons.

Forcing wounds to close

February 9, 2015 10:20 am | by Amal Naquiah, National Univ. of Singapore | News | Comments

A collaborative study led by scientists from the Mechanobiology Institute and the National Univ. of Singapore has revealed the mechanical forces that drive epithelial wound healing in the absence of cell supporting environment. This research was published in Nature Communications.

DNA strands on end of chromosomes hint when we will die

February 6, 2015 1:17 pm | by Todd Hollingshead, Brigham Young Univ. | News | Comments

Brigham Young Univ. biologist Jonathan Alder has a startling secret he doesn’t freely share: he knows when most of us are going to die. Okay, he doesn’t know exactly the day or time, but he has a pretty good idea, thanks to his research on tiny biological clocks attached to our chromosomes. These DNA end caps, called telomeres, are the great predictors of life expectancy: the shorter your telomeres, the shorter your lifespan.

Non-damaging x-ray technique unveils protein complex that uses sunlight to split water

February 6, 2015 10:32 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

A more accurate view of the structure of the oxygen-evolving complex that splits water during photosynthesis is now in hand thanks to a study involving researchers from the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, Okayama Univ. and the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The new model of natural photosynthesis provides a blueprint for synthesizing water-splitting catalysts that mimic this natural process.

Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

February 6, 2015 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes. But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail.

15-million-year-old mollusk protein found

February 5, 2015 10:33 am | by Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

A team of Carnegie Institute scientists have found “beautifully preserved” 15-million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. The team collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era.

Pigeon power

February 5, 2015 7:50 am | by Sara Agnew, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

The more scientists study pigeons, the more they learn how their brains operate in ways not so different from our own. In a new study from the Univ. of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

Scientists call for antibody “bar code” system to follow Human Genome Project

February 4, 2015 4:05 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.

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