One of the most hotly debated issues in current human origins research focuses on how the 4.4-million-year-old African species Ardipithecus ramidus is related to the human lineage. “Ardi” was an unusual primate. Though it possessed a tiny brain and a grasping big toe used for clambering in the trees, it had small, humanlike canine teeth and an upper pelvis modified for bipedal walking on the ground.
Genetic systems run like clockwork, attuned to temperature, time of day and many other factors as they regulate living organisms. Scientists at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Houston have opened a window onto one aspect of the process that has confounded researchers for decades: the mechanism by which genetic regulators adjust to changing temperature.
The idea of everyone in a community pitching in is so universal that even bacteria have a system to prevent the layabouts of their kind from enjoying the fruit of others' hard work, Princeton Univ. researchers have discovered. Groups of the bacteria Vibrio cholerae deny loafers their unjust desserts by keeping the food generated by the community's productive members away from V. cholerae that attempt to live on others' leftover nutrients.
Developed by a team of researchers in Massachusetts and California, “nanotraps” are nanoparticles that act as viral traps using specific molecules found naturally within the human body. Initial testing on the treatments, which each use tiny, non-toxic particles that can be injected, inhaled, or eaten, has shown them to be effective and safe against a multitude of strains of disease.
With the help of biomimetic matrices, a research team led by bioengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego has discovered exactly how calcium phosphate can coax stem cells to become bone-building cells. The team has traced a surprising pathway from these biomaterials to bone formation. Their findings will help them refine the design of biomaterials that encourage stem cells to give rise to new bone.
Researchers have developed a simple, effective and relatively inexpensive technique for removing lignin from the plant material used to make biofuels, which may drive down the cost of biofuel production. Lignin, nature’s way of protecting plant cell walls, is difficult to break down or remove from biomass. However, that lignin needs to be extracted in order to reach the energy-rich cellulose that is used to make biofuels.
Researchers have developed a technique for creating nanoparticles that carry two different cancer-killing drugs into the body and deliver those drugs to separate parts of the cancer cell where they will be most effective. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
An Israeli researcher says she has identified a nearly 2,000-year old textile that may contain a mysterious blue dye described in the Bible, one of the few remnants of the ancient color ever found. Researchers and rabbis have long searched for the enigmatic color, called tekhelet in Hebrew, but thought it to be lost in antiquity.
From a biological point of view, the world’s most exotic sex lives may be the ones lived by fungi. As a kingdom, they are full of surprises, and a new one reported in Nature seems sure to titillate the intellects of those who study the evolution of mating and ploidy, the complement of chromosomes in each cell.
Pine Island Glacier is one of the biggest routes for ice to flow from Antarctica into the sea. The floating ice shelf at the glacier’s tip has been melting and thinning for the past four decades, causing the glacier to speed up and discharge more ice. Understanding this ice shelf is a key for predicting sea-level rise in a warming world.
A compound derived from a traditional Chinese herbal medicine has been found effective at alleviating pain, pointing the way to a new non-addictive analgesic for acute inflammatory and nerve pain, according to Univ. of California Irvine (UC Irvine) pharmacology researchers. Working with Chinese scientists, the UC Irvine team isolated a compound called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) from the roots of the Corydalis yanhusuo plant.
A novel breast cancer therapy partially reverses the cancerous state in cultured breast tumor cells and prevents cancer development in mice, and it could one day provide a new way to treat early stages of the disease without resorting to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, a multi-institutional team led by researchers from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported.
Rice Univ. researchers have developed a noninvasive technology that accurately detects low levels of malaria infection through the skin in seconds with a laser scanner. The “vapor nanobubble” technology requires no dyes or diagnostic chemicals, and there is no need to draw blood. A preclinical study shows that Rice’s technology detected even a single malaria-infected cell among a million normal cells with zero false-positive readings.
By the time they’re two, most children have had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and suffered symptoms no worse than a bad cold. But for some children, RSV can lead to pneumonia and bronchitis. A new imaging technique for studying the structure of the RSV virion and the activity of RSV in living cells could help researchers unlock the secrets of the virus.
In a recent achievement, Cui Qiu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology, turned a few shy members of the Clostridium germ family into highly productive workers. Some chewed up wood fiber and churned out sugar, while others ate the sugar and made ethanol. These small creatures could bring huge changes to the world, Cui says.
The government is preparing to regulate the new field of hand and face transplants like it does standard organ transplants, giving more Americans who are disabled or disfigured by injury, illness or combat a chance at this radical kind of reconstruction. The United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, will develop the new policies over the next few months.
Even scientists are fond of thinking of the human brain as a computer, following sets of rules. But if the brain is like a computer, why do brains make mistakes that computers don't? Recent research shows that our brains stumble on even the simplest rule-based calculations, because humans get caught up in contextual information, even when the rules are as clear-cut as separating even numbers from odd.
Can an experimental drug developed to treat epilepsy block the AIDS virus? A preliminary lab study suggests it's possible, and researchers are eager to try it in people. When tested in human tissues in the laboratory, the drug "works beautifully" to prevent HIV from destroying key cells of the immune system.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) are a highly diverse group of membrane proteins that mediate cellular communication and are thought to be prominent drug targets. A group of researchers from Arizona State Univ. are part of a larger team reports that they have been successful in imaging at room temperature the structure of GPCR with the use of an x-ray free-electron laser.
An international research team has produced a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from a toe bone found in 2010 by Russian archaeologists. The genome will allow detailed insights into the relationships and population history of the Neanderthals and other extinct hominin groups.
In the quest to shrink motors so they can maneuver in tiny spaces like inside and between human cells, scientists have taken inspiration from millions of years of plant evolution and incorporated, for the first time, corkscrew structures from plants into a new kind of helical “microswimmer.” The low-cost development, which appears in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, could be used on a large scale in targeted drug delivery and other applications.
New collaborative work from computational biologists in Massachusetts and California combines computational and experimental approaches to identify biologically meaningful RNA folds. The work could open the door to a better understanding of RNA machinery, which includes the ribosome, microRNAs and riboswitches, and long noncoding RNAs whose diverse functions are only beginning to be understood.
Virulent, drug-resistant forms of E. coli that have recently spread around the world emerged from a single strain of the bacteria. The strain causes millions of urinary, kidney and bloodstream infections a year. It could have a far greater clinical and economic impact than any other strain of bacteria, including the so-called MRSA superbug.
A group of researchers from the U.K. have used inkjet printing technology to successfully print cells taken from the eye for the very first time. The breakthrough, detailed in Biofabrication, could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.
Halomonas are a hardy breed of bacteria. They can withstand heat, high salinity, low oxygen, utter darkness and pressures that would kill most other organisms. These traits enable these microbes to eke out a living in deep sandstone formations that also happen to be useful for hydrocarbon extraction and carbon sequestration, researchers report in a new study.