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Scientists create remote-controlled nanoscale protein motors

August 6, 2014 9:58 am | by Shara Tonn, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

To help them further the study of cell function, a team of Stanford Univ. bioengineers has designed a suite of protein motors that can be controlled remotely by light. Splicing together DNA from different organisms such as pig, slime mold and oat, which has a light-detecting module, the team created DNA codes for each of their protein motors. When exposed to light, the new protein motors change direction or speed.

Cool Solutions

August 6, 2014 9:58 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

In the ultra-low-temperature (ULT) freezer market there’s a continued focus on sample protection. As users store priceless samples, they need to have ULT freezers that provide them with quick recovery and uniformity after door openings. However, for most users, the trend is pointing to energy efficiency and cost, as ULT freezers cost as much to operate in a year as an average American household, according to the Univ. of California, Davis.

Enhanced Sample Prep

August 6, 2014 9:21 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Sample preparation is a critical step in the analytical process. Studies report that sample prep can represent about 60% of a laboratory technician’s time and also forms one of the principal sources of error. Many techniques to conduct sample prep are available to researchers, such as filtration, digestion, dialysis, liquid/liquid extraction and solid phase extraction.

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Butterflies are free to change colors

August 6, 2014 7:59 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. scientists have chosen the most fleeting of mediums for their groundbreaking work on biomimicry: They’ve changed the color of butterfly wings. In so doing, they produced the first structural color change in an animal by influencing evolution. The discovery may have implications for physicists and engineers trying to use evolutionary principles in the design of new materials and devices.

Researchers boost insect aggression by altering brain metabolism

August 6, 2014 7:37 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism and aggression. The new research follows up on previous work from the laboratory of Univ. of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who also led the new analysis.

Model of viral lifecycle could help find cure for hepatitis B

August 5, 2014 4:36 pm | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A new technique for studying the lifecycle of the hepatitis B virus could help researchers develop a cure for the disease. A recently published paper describes using microfabricated cell cultures to sustain hepatitis B virus in human liver cells, allowing them to study immune responses and drug treatments.

Advanced thin-film technique could deliver long-lasting medication

August 5, 2014 7:57 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

About one in four older adults suffers from chronic pain. Many of those people take medication, usually as pills. But this is not an ideal way of treating pain: Patients must take medicine frequently, and can suffer side effects, since the contents of pills spread through the bloodstream to the whole body. Now researchers have refined a technique that could enable pain medication to be released directly to specific parts of the body.

Researchers uncover clues to flu’s mechanisms

August 4, 2014 3:13 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A flu virus acts like a Trojan horse as it attacks and infects host cells. Scientists at Rice Univ. and Baylor College of Medicine have acquired a clearer view of the well-hidden mechanism involved. Their computer simulations may lead to new strategies to stop influenza, perhaps even a one-size-fits-all vaccine.

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FEI reports new advances in neuroscience in collaboration with NIH

August 4, 2014 11:43 am | News | Comments

Using cryo-electron microscopy technology from FEI Corp., researchers at the NIH-FEI Living Lab for Structural Biology have determined the structural mechanism by which glutamate receptors participate in the transmission of signals between neurons in the brain. The findings suggest a major breakthrough: that the determination of membrane proteins may no longer be limited by size or the need for crystallization.

Top U.S. research institutions announce major neuroscience collaboration

August 4, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

Several prominent leaders in neuroscience research have announced the formation of a collaboration aimed at making databases about the brain more usable and accessible for neuroscientists. With funding from GE, these institutions, which include the Kavli Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will soon embark on this year-long project.

Uncovering the 3-D structure of a key neuroreceptor

August 4, 2014 10:18 am | by Nick Papageorgiu, EPFL | News | Comments

Neurons communicate with each other through electrical signals that are generated by chemicals, which bind to structures on neurons called neuroreceptors. One neuroreceptor, called 5HT3-R, is involved in a variety of neurological disorders. Scientists in Switzerland have revealed for the first time the 3-D structure of this crucial neuroreceptor.

New tools advance bio-logic

August 4, 2014 8:21 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Kansas Medical Center are making genetic circuits that can perform more complex tasks by swapping protein building blocks. The modular genetic circuits engineered from parts of otherwise unrelated bacterial genomes can be set up to handle multiple chemical inputs simultaneously with a minimum of interference from their neighbors.

New paper describes how DNA avoids damage from UV light

July 31, 2014 11:42 am | by Evelyn Boswell, Montana State Univ. | News | Comments

In the same week that the U.S. surgeon general issued a lengthy report about the dangers of skin cancer, researchers at Montana State Univ. published a paper breaking new ground on how DNA responds when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The study, made possible by femtosecond lasers used for ultrafast spectroscopy, showed how DNA transfers electrons when excited by UV light.

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Scientists develop new way to separate birdsong sources

July 31, 2014 10:08 am | News | Comments

A team of U.S. and Chinese scientists have published a new study that could greatly improve current methods of localizing birdsong data. Their findings, which ascertain the validity of using statistical algorithms to detect multiple-source signals in real time and in three-dimensional space, are of especial significance to modern warfare.

Breakthrough in understanding of important blood protein

July 31, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

The human body contains a unique protein that has the unusual property of destroying itself after a few hours of existence. Called PAI-1, it affects many physiological functions, including the dissolving of coagulated blood. Recent research in Denmark has shed light on how PAI-1 changes shape. This is considered important because the protein has one of the largest shape changes in the known world of proteins.

Glucose “control switch” in the brain key to both diabetes types

July 31, 2014 9:36 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have pinpointed a mechanism in part of the brain that is key to sensing glucose levels in the blood, linking it to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Engineering a protein to prevent brain damage from toxic agents

July 31, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

Research at New York Univ. is paving the way for a breakthrough that may prevent brain damage in civilians and military troops exposed to poisonous chemicals—particularly those in pesticides and chemical weapons. An article in ChemBioChem outlines the advancement in detoxifying organophosphates, which are compounds commonly used in pesticides and warfare agents.

Researchers find protein that fuels repair of treatment-resistant cancer cells

July 31, 2014 8:06 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Imagine you're fighting for your life but no matter how hard you hit, your opponent won't go down. The same can be said of highly treatment-resistant cancers, such as head and neck cancer, where during radiation and chemotherapy some cancer cells repair themselves, survive and thrive. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, but the late detection and treatment resistance result in a high mortality rate.

Decades-old amber collection offers new views of an ancient world

July 31, 2014 7:52 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists are searching through a massive collection of 20-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic more than 50 years ago, and the effort is yielding fresh insights into ancient tropical insects and the world they inhabited. When the collection is fully curated, a task that will take many years, it will be the largest unbiased Dominican amber collection in the world, the researchers report.

Boosting neural pathway from gut to brain could play part in weight control

July 31, 2014 7:40 am | by Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A Purdue Univ. study found an increase in sensory nerve fibers that send signals from the gut to the brain reduces the time spent eating a meal, which could help regulate body weight. The researchers studied a mouse model with a targeted knockout of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene that decreases levels of this nerve growth factor in the gastrointestinal tract.

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

July 30, 2014 4:55 pm | by Claire Sturgeon, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass", collaborators from Illinois and Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve. The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the “Red Queen Effect,” which suggests that organisms must constantly increase fitness in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

Biologists describe mechanism promoting multiple DNA mutations

July 30, 2014 4:49 pm | by Gart Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

DNA mutations had been thought to be rare events that occur randomly throughout the genome. However, recent studies have shown that cancer development frequently involves the formation of multiple mutations that arise simultaneously and in close proximity to each other. These groups of clustered mutations are frequently found in regions where chromosomal rearrangements take place.

Study: Tumors absorb sugar for mobility

July 30, 2014 4:46 pm | by Lionel Pousaz, EPFL | News | Comments

We have long known that cancer cells monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness to join in an ordered set. Researchers are calling this behavior “mesenchymal,” and they suspect it promotes metastasis.

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

July 30, 2014 2:00 pm | News | Comments

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process. Now scientists are tapping into those secrets to develop a more environmentally friendly way to make colored plastics. Their paper on using structure—or the shapes and architectures of materials—rather than dyes, to produce color appears in Nano Letters.

Brainwaves can predict audience reaction for TV programming

July 30, 2014 7:47 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Media and marketing experts have long sought a reliable method of forecasting responses from the general population to future products and messages. According to a study conducted at the City College of New York in partnership with Georgia Tech, it appears that the brain responses of just a few individuals are a remarkably strong predictor.

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