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New mechanism unlocked for evolution of green fluorescent protein

January 28, 2015 10:51 am | by Jenny Green, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

A primary challenge in the biosciences is to understand the way major evolutionary changes in nature are accomplished. Sometimes the route turns out to be very simple. A group of scientists showed, for the first time, that a hinge migration mechanism, driven solely by long-range dynamic motions, can be the key for evolution of a green-to-red photoconvertible phenotype in a green fluorescent protein.

Chemists find a way to unboil eggs

January 26, 2015 9:25 am | by Janet Wilson, Univ. of California, Irvine | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites, an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published in ChemBioChem.

Scientists shed new light on biomass breakdown

January 26, 2015 8:18 am | by David Garner, Senior Press Officer, Univ. of York | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of York are part of a research team which has found that a recently discovered family of enzymes can degrade resistant forms of starch. Earlier research established that the enzymes, lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), are able to degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

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Pictured together for the first time: A chemokine and its receptor

January 23, 2015 8:12 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Researchers report the first crystal structure of the cellular receptor CXCR4 bound to an immune signaling protein called a chemokine. The structure, published in Science, answers longstanding questions about a molecular interaction that plays an important role in human development, immune responses, cancer metastasis and HIV infections.

Biological safety lock for genetically modified organisms

January 22, 2015 1:17 pm | by Stephanie Dutchen, Harvard Medical School | News | Comments

The creation of genetically modified and entirely synthetic organisms continues to generate excitement as well as worry. Such organisms are already churning out insulin and other drug ingredients, helping produce biofuels and teaching scientists about human disease. While the risks can be exaggerated to frightening effect, modified organisms do have the potential to upset natural ecosystems if they were to escape.

Researchers reveal how the mundane can be meaningful, remembered

January 22, 2015 11:36 am | by James Devitt, New York Univ. | News | Comments

It’s not surprising that our memories of highly emotional events, such as 9/11 or the birth of a child, are quite strong. But can these events change our memories of the past? In a study published in Nature, New York Univ. researchers report that emotional learning can lead to the strengthening of older memories.

New analysis explains collagen’s force

January 22, 2015 7:48 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Research combining experimental work and detailed molecular simulations has revealed, for the first time, the complex role that water plays in collagen. The new analysis reveals an important mechanism that had never been observed before: Adding even small amounts of water to, or removing water from, collagen in tendons can generate surprisingly strong forces, as much as 300 times stronger than the forces generated by muscles.

The ups and downs of the seemingly idle brain

January 21, 2015 9:24 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Even in its quietest moments, the brain is never “off.” Instead, while under anesthesia, during slow-wave sleep, or even amid calm wakefulness, the brain’s cortex maintains a cycle of activity and quiet called “up” and “down” states. A new study by Brown Univ. neuroscientists probed deep into this somewhat mysterious cycle in mice, to learn more about how the mammalian brain accomplishes it.

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Model explores location of future U.S. population growth

January 21, 2015 8:59 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a population distribution model that provides unprecedented county-level predictions of where people will live in the U.S. in the coming decades. Initially developed to assist in the siting of new energy infrastructure, the team’s model has a broad range of implications from urban planning to climate change adaptation.

Snails produce weaponized insulin

January 20, 2015 11:06 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

As predators go, cone snails are slow moving and lack the typical fighting parts. They’ve made up for it by producing a vast array of fast-acting toxins that target the nervous systems of prey. A new study reveals that some cone snails add a weaponized form of insulin to the venom cocktail they use to disable fish.

“Microcapsules” have potential to repair damage caused by osteoarthritis

January 20, 2015 8:29 am | by Queen Mary Univ. of London | News | Comments

A new “microcapsule” treatment delivery method developed by researchers at Queen Mary Univ. of London could reduce inflammation in cartilage affected by osteoarthritis and reverse damage to tissue. A protein molecule called C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), which occurs naturally in the body, is known to reduce inflammation and aid in the repair of damaged tissue.

Hydrogels deliver on blood-vessel growth

January 20, 2015 7:50 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have found the balance necessary to aid healing with high-tech hydrogel. The team created a new version of the hydrogel that can be injected into an internal wound and help it heal while slowly degrading as it is replaced by natural tissue. Hydrogels are used as a scaffold upon which cells can build tissue. The new hydrogel overcomes a host of issues that have kept them from reaching their potential to treat injuries.

New genetic clues found in fragile X syndrome

January 16, 2015 1:40 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Senior Medical Sciences Writer, Washington Univ., St. Louis | News | Comments

Scientists have gained new insight into fragile X syndrome by studying the case of a person without the disorder, but with two of its classic symptoms. In patients with fragile X, a key gene is completely disabled, eliminating a protein that regulates electrical signals in the brain and causing a host of behavioral, neurological and physical symptoms.

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Tiny plant fossils a window into Earth’s landscape millions of years ago

January 15, 2015 3:30 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants could tell a detailed story of what the Earth looked like 50 million years ago. An international team led by the Univ. of Washington has discovered a way to determine the tree cover and density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil.

Team enlarges brain samples, making them easier to image

January 15, 2015 2:29 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Beginning with the invention of the first microscope in the late 1500s, scientists have been trying to peer into preserved cells and tissues with ever-greater magnification. The latest generation of so-called “super-resolution” microscopes can see inside cells with resolution better than 250 nm.

New tech keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces

January 15, 2015 9:44 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Just as the invention of non-stick pans was a boon for chefs, a new type of nanoscale surface that bacteria can’t stick to holds promise for applications in the food processing, medical and even shipping industries. The technology uses an electrochemical process called anodization to create nanoscale pores that change the electrical charge and surface energy of a metal surface.

Chemical dial controls attraction between water-repelling molecules

January 14, 2015 4:12 pm | by Chris Barncard, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Fear of water may seem like an irrational hindrance to humans, but on a molecular level, it lends order to the world. Some substances, in particular greasy, oily ones, are hydrophobic. They have no attraction to water, and essentially appear repelled by the stuff. Combine hydrophobic pieces in a molecule with parts that are instead attracted to water, and sides are taken. Structure appears, as in the membranes that encircle living cells.

How to predict responses to disease

January 14, 2015 10:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sometimes the response to the outbreak of a disease can make things worse. The ability to anticipate when such overreactions might occur could help public health officials take steps to limit the dangers. Now a new computer model could provide a way of making such forecasts, based on a combination of data collected from hospitals, social media and other sources.

Scientists use “NanoVelcro” and temperature control to extract tumor cells from blood

January 14, 2015 9:06 am | by Shaun Mason, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A group led by scientists has developed a new method for effectively extracting and analyzing cancer cells circulating in patients’ blood. Circulating tumor cells are cancer cells that break away from tumors and travel in the blood, looking for places in the body to grow new tumors called metastases. Capturing these rare cells would allow doctors to detect and analyze the cancer so they could tailor treatment for individual patients.

First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

January 14, 2015 8:28 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | Videos | Comments

In a laboratory first, Duke Univ. researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The laboratory-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.

Device allows manipulation of differentiating stem cells

January 14, 2015 8:20 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Electroporation is a powerful technique in molecular biology. By using an electrical pulse to create a temporary nanopore in a cell membrane, researchers can deliver chemicals, drugs and DNA directly into a single cell. But existing electroporation methods require high electric field strengths and for cells to be suspended in solution, which disrupts cellular pathways and creates a harsh environment for sensitive primary cells.

Photonic crystal nanolaser biosensor simplifies DNA detection

January 13, 2015 12:01 pm | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A simple method to sense DNA, as well as potential biomarker proteins of cancer or other diseases such as Alzheimer's, may soon be within reach thanks to the work of a team of Yokohama National Univ. researchers in Japan. As the team reports in Applied Physics Letters, they created a photonic crystal nanolaser biosensor capable of detecting the adsorption of biomolecules based on the laser's wavelength shift.

Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

January 13, 2015 8:20 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

For swimming through sand, a slick and slender snake can perform better than a short and stubby lizard. That’s one conclusion from a study of the movement patterns of the shovel-nosed snake, a native of the Mojave Desert of the southwest U.S.

Scientists find brain protein aids influenza recovery

January 12, 2015 7:55 am | by Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. Spokane scientists have found a brain protein that boosts the healing power of sleep and speeds an animal's recovery from the flu. The research has determined that a brain-specific protein is uniquely involved in sleep responses triggered by the influenza virus in mice. Without the protein, animals develop more severe symptoms of infection and die at higher rates than regular or control mice.

Optimistic people have healthier hearts

January 9, 2015 8:46 am | by Sharita Forrest, Social Work Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

People who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health, suggests a new study that examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults. Participants’ cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use.

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