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Thirty-five years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars

September 5, 2012 8:01 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. Since leaving the ringed gas giant behind many years ago, Voyager 1 has rocketed toward an invisible boundary that no human spacecraft has ever ventured beyond. Scientists now say, based on instrument readings, that it is about to leave our solar system and venture into interstellar space.

Mass spectrometry makes the clinical grade

September 4, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have reported this week that combining two well-established analytic techniques?and adding a twist?identifies proteins from blood with as much accuracy and sensitivity as the antibody-based tests used clinically. The new mass spectrometry technique, called PRISM, should be able to speed up development of diagnostic tests and treatments based on proteins specific to certain diseases.

Curiosity rover returns voice, telephoto views from Mars

August 28, 2012 8:00 am | News | Comments

In addition to releasing spectacular new telephoto images of the Martian surface, NASA also used the rover to relay a voice message from NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, from Earth to Mars and back. The new images were taken by the 100-mm telephoto lens and the 34-mm wide angle lens of the Mast Camera instrument, which photographed the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

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Glowing “flowers” enable ultra-trace analysis at the sub-zeptomole level

August 28, 2012 4:55 am | News | Comments

Highly sensitive and highly selective tests for early disease detection, environmental toxin detection, orthe detection of explosives at airports helps avoid false-positive results. Indian scientists have recently introduced a specific detection method for the explosive TNT that is selective for analytes it can be used to detect even a single molecule.

Fluorescent molecules for imaging have an on-and-off switch

August 16, 2012 7:04 am | News | Comments

University of Miami scientists have developed a way to switch fluorescent molecules on and off within aqueous environments by strategically trapping the molecules inside water-soluble particles and controlling them with ultraviolet light. The new system can be used to develop better fluorescent probes for biomedical research.

Fluorescence “tags and tracks” DNA looping

August 13, 2012 9:02 am | News | Comments

Researchers the University of Texas, Dallas have found a way to monitor DNA looping, a natural biological mechanism involved in rearranging genetic material in some types of cells. Until now, scientists primarily had “snapshots” of the initial and final stages of DNA loop formation, but the new “tag and track” method uses fluorescence to watch the process step by step.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Princeton University form technology alliance partnership

August 13, 2012 8:48 am | News | Comments

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has entered into a technology alliance partnership agreement with scientists at Princeton University, establishing a formal collaboration to accelerate research in triple quadrupole and high-resolution accurate mass liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry for life science applications.

Long-predicted fluctuations in cell membranes observed for first time

August 10, 2012 7:30 am | News | Comments

The question of just how a cell membrane—which is otherwise an impermeable barrier—allows certain proteins to penetrate it remains largely a mystery. But an answer may be closer after measurements taken at the NIST and France's Institut Laue-Langevin, where scientists have observed changes in the thickness of a model cell membrane for the first time.

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New technique yields information critical to biofuels research

August 10, 2012 5:42 am | News | Comments

Pioneering mass spectrometry methods developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory are helping plant biologists get their first glimpses of never-before-seen plant tissue structures. The new method opens up new realms of study, ones that might have long-ranging implications for biofuels research and crop genetics.

Scientists define new limits of microbial life in undersea volcanoes

August 7, 2012 6:21 am | News | Comments

This week researchers have reported the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes. As evidence builds that a large amount of biomass exists in Earth’s subsurface, the scientists’ major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for these extreme microbes.

Virtual nanoscopy: Like 'Google Earth' for cell biologists

August 7, 2012 4:23 am | News | Comments

Electron microscopy reveals cellular structures in high detail, but only tiny portions of a cell can be seen at a time. A team of scientists has tackled this problem by developing new tools for stitching together thousands of electron microscopy images into single, high-resolution images of biological tissues—a "Google Earth" for cell biologists. A newly enhanced viewer is available for public use.

How the cell swallows

August 3, 2012 8:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany have recently combined the power of two kinds of microscope to produce a 3D movie of how cells “swallow” nutrients and other molecules by bending its membrane inwards and engulfing them.

Researchers invent new tool to study single biological molecules

August 3, 2012 8:09 am | News | Comments

Existing technologies allow researchers to measure single molecules on the x and y axes of a 2D plane. By blending optical and atomic force microscope technologies, Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have now found a way to complete 3D nanoscale measurements of single biological molecules with unprecedented accuracy and precision.

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Fish-eye view could offer insights for human vision

August 3, 2012 5:23 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner | News | Comments

Zeran Li, as an undergraduate student in biological sciences at Purdue University, led a research team that uncovered an enzyme's role in the regulation of eye size in the fish. If the enzyme's role is similar in human eyes, it could be relevant to human vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.

In fly DNA, the footprint of a fly virus

August 2, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

In a curious evolutionary twist, biologists from the University of Buffalo report, several species of a commonly studied fruit fly appear to have incorporated genetic material from a virus into their genomes. This discovery of virus-like genes in the DNA of a commonly studied fruit fly could enable research on whether animals hijack viral genes as an anti-viral defense.

Study: Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are

August 1, 2012 11:57 am | News | Comments

When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of exceptionally smart humans from those of average humans? Size and prefrontal cortex activity contribute, but new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that another 10% of individual differences in intelligence can be explained by the strength of neural pathways connecting the left prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain.

Liquid-filled fiber optics boosts chemiluminescence research

August 1, 2012 4:34 am | News | Comments

Processing biological samples on a small substrate the size of a computer chip is becoming a common task for biotechnology applications. Given the small working area, however, probing samples on the substrate with light can be difficult. Researchers in Singapore have now developed an optical fiber system that is able to deliver light to microfluidic chips with high efficiency.

“Diving board” sensors engineered to detect DNA

July 30, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Drexel University are in the process of refining a sensor technology that they developed to measure samples at the cellular level. Constructed from a tiny vibrating piezoelectric cantilever, the sensor may become an accurate method for quickly detecting traces of DNA in liquid samples.

Wyss Institute aims to mimic whole human body with organ-on-chip

July 27, 2012 7:35 am | News | Comments

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University this week reported that it will receive up to $37 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an automated instrument that integrates 10 human organs-on-chips to study complex human physiology outside the body. The aim is to simulate the entire body’s physiology.

Insights into protein folding may lead to better flu vaccine

July 26, 2012 3:36 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell University | News | Comments

A new method for looking at how proteins fold inside mammal cells is allowing researchers to take snapshots of the cell's protein-making machinery—called ribosomes—in various stages of protein production. The scientists can then piece together the snapshots to reconstruct how proteins fold during their synthesis. The findings could one day lead to better flu vaccines, the researchers say.

Researchers find clues to explain life’s left-handedness

July 25, 2012 8:42 am | by Bill Steigerwald | News | Comments

Researchers analyzing meteorite fragments that fell on a frozen lake in Canada have developed an explanation for the origin of life's handedness—why living things only use molecules with specific orientations. The work also gave the strongest evidence to date that liquid water inside an asteroid leads to a strong preference of left-handed over right-handed forms of some common protein amino acids in meteorites.

Supercomputer simulates cartilage in human knee joints

July 25, 2012 7:16 am | News | Comments

A Cleveland Clinic research team is developing virtual models of human knee joints to better understand how tissues and their individual cells react to heavy loads—virtual models that someday can be used to understand damage mechanisms caused by the aging process or debilitating diseases, such as osteoarthritis.

Protein study brings muscle movement into sharper focus

July 23, 2012 6:58 am | News | Comments

Muscle contractions are controlled by the interplay between myosin and actin filaments and two other proteins, tropomyosin and troponin, which regulate how myosin binds to actin. Theoretical models have described exactly how these muscle proteins interact, but until now it has never been observed in detail. Researchers managed to image the actin-myosin-tropomyosin complex with an unprecedented accuracy of 0.8 nm.

Genomic sequencing method offers “smarter” cell analysis

July 23, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

Recent research shows for the first time that a new genomic sequencing method called Smart-Seq can help scientists conduct in-depth analyses of clinically relevant single cells. The method builds on knowledge of splicing, in which it is common for one gene to give rise to several forms of the same protein through different cut-and-paste configurations of its raw copy.

What happens when we sunburn

July 9, 2012 6:53 am | News | Comments

According to a report from research on the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the biological mechanism of sunburn—the reddish, painful, protective immune response from UV radiation—is a consequence of RNA damage to skin cells. The findings open the way to perhaps eventually blocking the inflammatory process, the scientists said, and have implications for a range of medical conditions and treatments.

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