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Genetic function discovered that could offer new avenue to cancer therapies

February 4, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered a genetic function that helps one of the most important “tumor suppressor” genes to do its job and prevent cancer. Finding ways to maintain or increase the effectiveness of this gene—called Grp1-associated scaffold protein, or Grasp—could offer an important new avenue for human cancer therapies, scientists said.

Technique makes “biogasoline” from plant waste

February 4, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes.

New scientific field looks at the big picture

February 3, 2014 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Traditionally, ecologists are trained by studying and taking samples from the field in places like forests, grasslands, wetlands or water and measuring things in the laboratory. But big data is changing the field of ecology. The shift is dramatic enough to warrant the creation of an entirely new field: macrosystems ecology.

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Zebra fish fins help researchers gain insight into bone regeneration

January 31, 2014 9:05 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon biologists say they have opened the window on the natural process of bone regeneration in zebra fish, and that the insights they gained could be used to advance therapies for bone fractures and disease. Their work shows that two molecular pathways work in concert to allow adult zebra fish to perfectly replace bones lost upon fin amputation.

Researchers sequence world’s first butterfly bacteria, find surprises

January 31, 2014 7:54 am | News | Comments

For the first time ever, a team has sequenced the internal bacterial makeup of the three major life stages of a butterfly species, a project that showed some surprising events occur during metamorphosis. The results showed the internal bacterial diversity of the butterfly was halved when it morphed from the caterpillar to the chrysalis, or pupal stage, then doubled after the pupae turned into active adult butterflies.

Neanderthal lineages excavated from modern human genomes

January 30, 2014 8:51 am | by Leila Gray, UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine | News | Comments

A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new approach applied to analyzing whole-genome sequencing data from 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20% of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

January 30, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.

Stress turns ordinary cells pluripotent

January 29, 2014 12:20 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Japan have developed a new, surprisingly simple method for creating stem cell. In a pair of reports, the researchers show that ordinary somatic cells from newborn mice can be stripped of their differentiation memory, reverting to a state of pluripotency resembling embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. All that’s needed is a dose of sublethal stress.

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Temperature swings may be bigger threat to life than increased warmth

January 29, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Insects may thrive in the warmer average temperatures predicted by climate models but are threatened by greater temperature variation also anticipated in many areas around the globe, a Yale Univ.-led study predicts. Scientists have tested the impact of temperature on 38 species of insects. The team coupled that data with historic climate data and climate projections for 2050 to 2059 in order to assess effects of temperature variability.

Want to get the flu? Volunteers sneeze for science

January 29, 2014 7:31 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Forget being sneezed on: Government scientists are deliberately giving dozens of volunteers the flu by squirting the live virus straight up their noses. It may sound bizarre, but the rare type of research is a step in the quest for better flu vaccines. It turns out that how the body fends off influenza remains something of a mystery.

Expanding our view of vision

January 28, 2014 8:24 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every time you open your eyes, visual information flows into your brain, which interprets what you’re seeing. Now, for the first time, Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have noninvasively mapped this flow of information in the human brain with unique accuracy, using a novel brain-scanning technique. 

Facelift complications eased with help of 3-D imaging technique

January 28, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by injecting a gel-like material into their facial tissue. These cosmetic procedures are sometimes called “liquid facelifts” and are said to be minimally invasive. It’s rare, but sometimes things go wrong. In a matter of minutes, patients’ skin can turn red or blotchy white and the injected area becomes painful.

Silk coat for diamonds makes sleek new imaging, drug delivery tool

January 27, 2014 2:12 pm | News | Comments

Silk and diamonds aren't just for ties and jewelry anymore. They're ingredients for a new kind of tiny glowing particle that could provide doctors and researchers with a novel technique for biological imaging and drug delivery. Just tens of nanometers across, the new particles are made of diamond, covered in silk and can be injected into living cells.

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Researchers tune in to protein pairs

January 27, 2014 11:25 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a way to interpret interactions among pairs of task-oriented proteins that relay signals. The goal is to learn how the proteins avoid crosstalk and whether they can be tuned for better performance. Each cell contains thousands of these two-component signaling proteins, which often act as sensors and trigger the cell to act.

Getting a charge from changes in humidity

January 27, 2014 11:15 am | News | Comments

A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

3-D printed soil reveals the world beneath our feet

January 27, 2014 8:21 am | by Kirsty Cameron, Abertay Univ. | Videos | Comments

Soil scientists at Abertay Univ. are using 3-D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet. In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Prof.Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.

In the brain, timing is everything

January 24, 2014 10:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Suppose you heard the sound of skidding tires, followed by a car crash. The next time you heard such a skid, you might cringe in fear, expecting a crash to follow—suggesting that somehow, your brain had linked those two memories so that a fairly innocuous sound provokes dread. Neuroscientists have now discovered how two neural circuits in the brain work together to control the formation of such time-linked memories.

Scientists reveal why life got big in the Earth’s early oceans

January 24, 2014 9:57 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have examined the earliest communities of large multicellular organisms in the fossil record to help answer this question of why life forms began to get larger about 580 million years ago. The research reveals that an increase in size provided access to nutrient-carrying ocean flow, giving an advantage to multicellular eukaryotes that existed prior to the Cambrian explosion of animal life.

New genes spring from non-coding DNA

January 24, 2014 8:58 am | News | Comments

"Where do new genes come from?" is a long-standing question in genetics and evolutionary biology. A new study from researchers at the Univ. of California, Davis, published in Science Express, shows that new genes are created from non-coding DNA more rapidly than expected.

Researchers discover potential drug targets for early onset glaucoma

January 24, 2014 8:18 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Using a novel high-throughput screening process, scientists have, for the first time, identified molecules with the potential to block the accumulation of a toxic eye protein that can lead to early onset of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness. Elevated eye pressure is the main risk factor for optic nerve damage.

Drug discovery potential of natural microbial genomes

January 23, 2014 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, San Diego have developed a new genetic platform that allows efficient production of naturally occurring molecules, and have used it to produce a novel antibiotic compound. Their study, published in PNAS, may open new avenues for natural product discoveries and drug development.

Fur and feathers keep animals warm by scattering light

January 23, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Scientists have wondered why polar bear fur is much more efficient at insulation than what we can develop for our housing. Now, a team has calculated that hairs, due to an unexpected optical mechanism, reflect infrared light and may contribute significant insulating power to the exceptionally warm winter coats of polar bears and other animals.

Seashells inspire new way to preserve bones for archeologists, paleontologists

January 22, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

Recreating the story of humanity’s past by studying ancient bones can hit a snag when they deteriorate, but scientists are now reporting an advance inspired by seashells that can better preserve valuable remains. Their findings, which appear in Langmuir, could have wide-ranging implications for both archeology and paleontology.

Researchers patent new antibacterial agent

January 22, 2014 8:54 am | by Rhona Schwartz, Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry | News | Comments

Four Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry faculty members have received a patent for a new way of using titanium-based materials to fight oral bacteria. The patent culminates several years of work in which the group studied a novel class of substances called titanates and peroxotitanates, which can inhibit bacterial growth when bound to metal ions.

3-D imaging provides window into living cells, no dye required

January 22, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Living cells are ready for their close-ups, thanks to a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, 3-D, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures—all with conventional microscopes and white light.

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