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Research suggests new strategies for fighting TB

September 30, 2014 8:22 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Over the past few years, a class of compounds called ADEPs (cyclic acyldepsipeptides) has emerged as a promising new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds work by attaching themselves to a cellular enzyme called ClpP, which bacterial cells use to rid themselves of harmful proteins. With an ADEP attached, ClpP can’t function properly, and the bacterial cell dies.

Wildlife populations plummet for 3,000 species

September 30, 2014 8:19 am | by John Heilprin, Associated Press | News | Comments

About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups. The Switzerland-based WWF says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28% decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012.

At the interface of math and science

September 30, 2014 8:09 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Paul Atzberger, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and in mechanical engineering, often works in areas where mathematics plays an ever more important role in the discovery and development of new ideas. Most recently he has developed new mathematical approaches to gain insights into how proteins move around within lipid bilayer membranes.

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Automated sorting through metagenomes

September 30, 2014 8:05 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Microbes have an amazing ability to feed on plant biomass and convert it into other chemical products. Tapping into this talent has the potential to revolutionize energy, medicine, environmental remediation and many other fields. The success of this effort hinges in part on metagenomics, the emerging technology that enables researchers to read all the individual genomes of a sample microbial community at once.

Fat molecules influence form, function of key photosynthesis protein

September 30, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A mysterious space within a protein critical to photosynthesis is filled with fat molecules that influence both the protein’s architecture and electrical properties, according to two recent studies. Researchers studied the atomic structure of, and electrical interactions within, the cytochrome bf complex, a protein complex central to the transport of electrons within membranes of a plant cell, a critical step in photosynthesis.

High-speed drug screen

September 30, 2014 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to rapidly test hundreds of different drug-delivery vehicles in living animals, making it easier to discover promising new ways to deliver a class of drugs called biologics, which includes antibodies, peptides, RNA and DNA, to human patients.

Biologists find early sign of cancer

September 29, 2014 11:10 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Years before they show any other signs of disease, pancreatic cancer patients have very high levels of certain amino acids in their bloodstream, according to a new study. This finding, which suggests that muscle tissue is broken down in the disease’s earliest stages, could offer new insights into developing early diagnostics for pancreatic cancer, which kills about 40,000 Americans every year.

Green light for clever algae

September 29, 2014 8:46 am | by Meike Drießen, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

Cryptophytes, complex single-cell algae that make up a lot of the ocean's phytoplankton, have, in the course of evolution, adapted their light-harvesting mechanisms to their environment and have thus become capable of utilizing green light. Researchers in Germany have recently been the first ones to reveal similarities and differences in the assembly of this light-harvesting machinery compared to cyanobacteria and red algae.

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Cell sorting method separates 10 billion cells in 30 minutes

September 26, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

Almost all of today’s previously existing cell-sorting methods rely on what is called a single-cell analysis platform. A researcher in Hawaii took a different approach, inventing a bulk method that sorts different cell populations by tuning their solubility. Instead of targeting individual features, the  measurement principle sorts cells by differentiating their characteristic surface free energies.

Protein “map” could lead to potent new cancer drugs

September 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Chemists in the U.K. have gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped. The scientists hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Clues to how people bounce back from surgery

September 25, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

One of the big frustrations of surgery is that little indicates whether the patient is a fast or slow healer, someone who feels normal in a week or is out of work for a month with lingering pain and fatigue. Now Stanford Univ. researchers have discovered that right after surgery, patients' blood harbors clues about how fast they'll bounce back. And it has to do with the activity of certain immune cells that play a key role in healing.

Skin-like device monitors cardiovascular, skin health

September 25, 2014 9:09 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A new wearable medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturizer, reports a Northwestern Univ. and Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study. The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring.

Platelets modulate clotting behavior by “feeling” their surroundings

September 25, 2014 8:31 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Platelets, the tiny cell fragments whose job it is to stop bleeding, are very simple. They don’t have a cell nucleus. But they can “feel” the physical environment around them, researchers at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have discovered. Platelets respond to surfaces with greater stiffness by increasing their stickiness, the degree to which they “turn on” other platelets and other components of the clotting system, the researchers found.

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Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

Researchers uncover structure of enzyme that makes plant cellulose

September 25, 2014 8:06 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have discovered the structure of the enzyme that makes cellulose, a finding that could lead to easier ways of breaking down plant materials to make biofuels and other products and materials. The research also provides the most detailed glimpse to date of the complicated process by which cellulose is produced.

Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay

September 25, 2014 8:00 am | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

As more gardeners and farmers add ground charcoal, or biochar, to soil to both boost crop yields and counter global climate change, a new study by researchers at Rice Univ. and Colorado College could help settle the debate about one of biochar’s biggest benefits: the seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower.

Chemists recruit anthrax to deliver cancer drugs

September 25, 2014 7:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Bacillus anthracis bacteria have very efficient machinery for injecting toxic proteins into cells, leading to the potentially deadly infection known as anthrax. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers has now hijacked that delivery system for a different purpose: administering cancer drugs.

Magnetic field opens and closes nanovesicle

September 24, 2014 9:18 am | Videos | Comments

Researchers in the Netherlands have managed to open nanovesicles in a reversible process and close them using a magnet. Previously, these vesicles had been “loaded” with a drug and opened elsewhere using a chemical process, such as osmosis. The magnetic method, which is repeatable, is the first to demonstrate the viability of another method.

Antifreeze proteins in Antarctic fish prevent both freezing and melting

September 24, 2014 8:48 am | News | Comments

Antarctic fish that manufacture their own "antifreeze" proteins to survive in the icy Southern Ocean also suffer an unfortunate side effect: The protein-bound ice crystals that accumulate inside their bodies resist melting even when temperatures warm. Ice that doesn't melt at its normal melting point is referred to as "superheated”, and the phenomenon was an unexpected discovery by scientists in Oregon and Illinois.

2015 Industrial Food & Drug Fermentation and Separation Biotechnology Short Course

September 24, 2014 7:31 am | Events

This short course will provide practical training in the field of cell culture, bioreactor operation, bioprocess paradigm and separation technology. It will also increase understanding of the industrial food and drug fermentation biotechnology through simulation, sterilization technologies and clinical implications, as well as related research done across different countries, universities and industries.

Nanotubes help healing hearts keep the beat

September 23, 2014 2:58 pm | Videos | Comments

A Rice Univ. team led by bioengineer Jeffrey Jacot and chemical engineer and chemist Matteo Pasquali have created new pediatric heart-defect patches infused with conductive single-walled carbon nanotubes that allow electrical signals to pass unhindered. The nanotubes overcome a limitation of current patches in which pore walls hinder the transfer of electrical signals between cardiomyocytes, the heart muscle’s beating cells.

Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

September 23, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.

Battling superbugs

September 23, 2014 9:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Each year, new strains of bacteria emerge that resist even the most powerful antibiotics, but scientists have discovered very few new classes of antibiotics in the past decade. Engineers have now turned a powerful new weapon on these superbugs. Using a gene-editing system that can disable any target gene, they have shown that they can selectively kill bacteria carrying harmful genes that confer antibiotic resistance or cause disease.

Bioengineers develop a toolkit for designing better synthetic molecules

September 23, 2014 9:10 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Synthetic molecules hold great potential for revealing key processes that occur in cells, but the trial-and-error approach to their design has limited their effectiveness. Christina Smolke at Stanford Univ. has introduced a new computer model that could provide better blueprints for building synthetic genetic tools.

Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

September 22, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch, which involves the enzyme telomerase, points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.

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