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High blood-sugar levels may harden heart valves

October 21, 2014 8:05 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. bioengineers have found new evidence of a possible link between diabetes and the hardening of heart valves. A Rice laboratory, in collaboration with the Univ. of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, discovered that the interstitial cells that turn raw materials into heart valves need just the right amount of nutrients for proper metabolic function.

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream

October 20, 2014 9:46 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

DNA has garnered attention for its potential as a programmable material platform that could spawn entire new and revolutionary nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology and more. Researchers have been working to master the ability to coax DNA molecules to self-assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology dreams.

Ebola fear, monitoring eases for some in Dallas

October 20, 2014 1:26 am | by Marilynn Marchione - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Ebola fears began to ease for some Monday as a monitoring period passed for those who had close contact with a victim of the disease and after a cruise ship scare ended with the boat returning to port and a laboratory worker on board testing negative for the virus. Federal officials meanwhile ramped up readiness to deal with future cases.

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Geneticists evaluate cost-effective genome analysis

October 17, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Scientists perform genome sequences because want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. However, sequencing a complete genome still costs around $1,000, and sequencing hundreds of individuals would be costly. In two recent review papers, scientists discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups, or pool sequencing, can be an efficient and cost-effective approach.

Designing antibiotics of the future

October 17, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

Scientists have used computer simulations to show how bacteria are able to destroy antibiotics, a breakthrough which will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future. Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol focused on the role of enzymes in the bacteria, which split the structure of the antibiotic and stop it working, making the bacteria resistant. 

Scientists discover carbonate rocks are unrecognized methane sink

October 17, 2014 9:25 am | by Mark Floyd, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Since the first undersea methane seep was discovered 30 years ago, scientists have meticulously analyzed and measured how microbes in the seafloor sediments consume the greenhouse gas methane as part of understanding how the Earth works. The sediment-based microbes form an important methane “sink,” preventing much of the chemical from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas accumulation.

LLNL, UC Davis partner to personalize cancer medications

October 17, 2014 8:27 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

Biological sample prep time cut dramatically

October 16, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers invented the field of biological accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in the late 1980s, the process of preparing the samples was time-consuming and cumbersome. Physicists and biomedical researchers used torches, vacuum lines, special chemistries and high degrees of skill to convert biological samples into graphite targets that could then be run through the AMS system.

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Study reveals optimal particle size for anticancer nanomedicines

October 16, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

Nanomedicines consisting of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells offer new solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Understanding the interdependency of physiochemical properties of nanomedicines, in correlation to their biological responses and functions, is crucial for their further development of as cancer-fighters.

Ultrasound reveals secrets of deadly abdominal aortic aneurysms

October 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are exploring the usefulness of ultrasound imaging to study dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulging of the aorta that is usually fatal when it ruptures and for which there is no effective medical treatment. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 15,000 annually.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

October 15, 2014 7:56 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

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Rock-dwelling microbes remove methane from deep sea

October 14, 2014 1:26 pm | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study. The rock-dwelling microbes represent a previously unrecognized biological sink for methane and as a result could reshape scientists' understanding of where this greenhouse gas is being consumed in subseafloor habitats.

Discovery of cellular snooze button advances cancer and biofuel research

October 14, 2014 12:53 pm | by Michigan State Univ. Media Communications | News | Comments

The discovery of a cellular snooze button has allowed a team of Michigan State Univ. scientists to potentially improve biofuel production and offer insight on the early stages of cancer. The discovery finds the protein CHT7 is a likely repressor of cellular quiescence, or resting state. This cellular switch, which influences algae’s growth and oil production, also wields control of cellular growth—and tumor growth—in humans.

ALS progression linked to increased protein instability

October 14, 2014 8:14 am | by Jon Weiner, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other institutions suggests a cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The team's work supports a common theme whereby loss of protein stability leads to disease.

All that glitters is...slimy? Gold nanoparticles measure snot stickiness

October 13, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Scientists create mimic of “good” cholesterol to fight heart disease, stroke

October 13, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.

DNA’s security system unveiled

October 13, 2014 9:04 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | Videos | Comments

As befitting life’s blueprint, DNA is surrounded by an elaborate security system that assures crucial information is imparted without error. The security is provided by a double membrane perforated by protein channels that block unwanted material from entering the nucleus and promote entry of key messengers.

Bio-inspired “nano-cocoons” offer targeted drug delivery against cancer

October 13, 2014 8:39 am | by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a drug delivery system consisting of nanoscale “cocoons” made of DNA that target cancer cells and trick the cells into absorbing the cocoon before unleashing anticancer drugs. The new system is DNA-based, which means it is biocompatible and less toxic to patients than systems that use synthetic materials.

Molecular structure of Hep C envelope protein unveiled

October 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects 160 million people worldwide. There’s no vaccine for HCV and the few treatments that are available do not work on all variants of the virus. Before scientists can develop potential vaccines and additional therapies they must first thoroughly understand the molecular-level activity that takes place when the virus infects a host cell.

Snakes and snake-like robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

October 10, 2014 8:15 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech and Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Videos | Comments

The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights, including how sidewinders effectively traverse sandy slopes.

Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

Nanoparticles get a magnetic handle

October 9, 2014 10:50 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

A long-sought goal of creating particles that can emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment, and that could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells, has been achieved by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other institutions. The new technology could make it possible to track the position of the nanoparticles as they move within the body or inside a cell.

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