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Gene activation follows a circuitous route

May 10, 2012 6:30 am | News | Comments

In order to reactivate silenced genes, a cell needs to remove certain “off” markers called methyl groups from the DNA. Scientists have recently shown that this process involves an intermediate step and an enzyme that also plays a role in the development of blood cancer. The finding could lead to new ideas for cancer-fighting therapies.

Researchers discover oldest known blood

May 8, 2012 11:42 am | News | Comments

His DNA had been decoded; samples from his stomach and intestines have allowed us to reconstruct his very last meal. The circumstances of his violent death appear to have been explained. However, what had, until now, eluded scientists was identifying any traces of blood in Ötzi, the 5,000 year old glacier mummy.

Breathalyzer reveals signs of disease

May 7, 2012 4:29 am | by Miles O'Brien and Jon Baime, Science Nation | News | Comments

One exhale and a new device from researchers at Stony Brook University in New York could screen for anything from diabetes to lung cancer. Based on a sensor chip built from electrospun nanowires that can detect minute amounts of chemical compounds, the device has yet to reach clinical trials. But its inventors anticipate the device to someday cost only $20.

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Key mechanism in DNA repair discovered

May 3, 2012 11:41 am | News | Comments

When the DNA double helix breaks, the broken end goes searching for the similar sequence and uses that as a template for repair. Using a new dual-molecule technique, a research group in the Netherlands has found out how the DNA molecule is able to perform this search and recognition process in such an efficient way.

Government to speed tracking of E. coli in meat

May 3, 2012 9:02 am | by Sam Hananel, Associated Press | News | Comments

A new Agriculture Department program will begin tracing the source of potentially contaminated ground beef as soon as there is an initial positive test. Current procedures require USDA officials to wait until additional testing confirms E. coli before starting their investigation. Under the new process, the source could be traced 24 to 48 hours sooner.

Engineers put the squeeze on cells to diagnose disease

May 2, 2012 3:34 am | by Wileen Wong Kromhout and Matthew Chin | News | Comments

Researchers have taken advantage of cells' physical properties to develop a new instrument that slams cells against a wall of fluid and quickly analyzes the physical response, allowing for the identification of cancer and other cell states without expensive chemical tags.

Test strip rapidly finds bacterial contamination in swimming water

May 1, 2012 11:33 am | News | Comments

Researchers at McMaster University have developed a rapid testing method using a simple paper strip that can detect E. coli in recreational water within minutes. The new tool can close the gap between outbreak and detection, improving public safety.

New form of spectroscopy tracks differentiating cells in real time

May 1, 2012 6:40 am | by Paul Preuss | News | Comments

With the development of synchrotron infrared spectroscopy, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have observed, in real time the process of protein phosphorylation—a chemical interaction that controls everything from cell proliferation to differentiation to metabolism—in living cells stimulated by nerve growth factor.

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Bioluminescent technology enables easy tracking of GMO

April 30, 2012 9:16 am | News | Comments

Careful handling and sampling techniques are required to assess the genetically modified content of a crop. The most common technique is polymerase chain reaction (PCR), but it involves complex extraction procedures and rapid thermocycling. Researchers have found that bioluminescent reporters, coupled with isolated amplification, provide sufficient accuracy with far less hassle.

Laser slices mitotic spindle, unraveling theory of its structure

April 27, 2012 3:31 am | by Mureji Fatunde | News | Comments

The mitotic spindle is an apparatus that segregates chromosomes during cell division. But following some nanosurgery conducted by Harvard University, its structure may be more complex than the standard textbook picture suggests. Using a femtosecond laser, researchers have shown the true structure of its protein strands.

Research breakthrough could allow drugs via the skin

April 26, 2012 6:47 am | News | Comments

A research team at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has solved the puzzle of the skin barrier: They have succeeded in describing the structure and function of the outermost layer of the skin—the stratum corneum—at a molecular level. This could enable large-scale delivery of drugs through the skin, or offer a deeper understanding of skin diseases.

Magnetoelectric sensors designed for medical measurement

April 26, 2012 6:33 am | News | Comments

Until the development of a new nanomaterial-based sensor in Germany, the brain’s magnetic field was measurable only under technical laboratory conditions. This prevented the technology’s use in medical applications. The new sensors, however, operate at normal conditions. Neither cooling nor external magnetic bias fields are required.

New X-ray bionanoprobe enables study of cryogenically preserved samples

April 25, 2012 4:23 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Northwestern University's Department of Radiation Oncology and Argonne National Laboratory recently deployed a new non-destructive X-ray microscopy solution from Xradia to image cryogenically preserved cells and advance studies of intra-cellular biology.

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Scientists head to Mount Everest for research

April 22, 2012 1:58 pm | by Binaj Gurubacharya, Associated Press | News | Comments

Mount Everest has attracted climbers and adventurers for nearly 100 years. Now, a team of U.S. scientists have set up a laboratory at the base of the world’s highest mountain to study the effects of high altitude on humans. A team from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota says it plans to monitor nine climbers attempting to scale Everest to learn more about the physiology of humans at high altitudes in order to help patients with heart conditions and other ailments.

History is key factor in plant disease

April 22, 2012 1:52 pm | by Ann Brody Guy | News | Comments

According to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the virulence of plant-borne diseases depends on not just the particular strain of a pathogen, but on where the pathogen has been before landing in its host. The study demonstrates that the pattern of gene regulation, not just gene make-up, plays a big role in the aggressiveness of a microbe.

New brain-machine interface moves a paralyzed hand

April 19, 2012 6:29 pm | News | Comments

A new Northwestern University brain-machine technology delivers messages from the brain directly to the muscles—bypassing the spinal cord—to enable voluntary and complex movement of a paralyzed hand. The device could eventually be tested on, and perhaps aid, paralyzed patients.

Computer-designed molecules point to new therapy for cystic fibrosis

April 19, 2012 6:24 pm | News | Comments

By developing software that uses 3D models of proteins involved in cystic fibrosis, a team of scientists at Duke University has identified several new molecules that may ease the symptoms of the disease.

Study: Nanoparticles may increase damage to plant DNA

April 19, 2012 6:14 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have provided the first evidence that engineered nanoparticles are able to accumulate within plants and damage their DNA. They have shown that nanoparticles of cupric oxide, a common compound, can enter plant root cells and generate mutagenic DNA base lesions.

Kidney stone mystery solved

April 19, 2012 5:41 am | News | Comments

Striking an estimated 1 million Americans each year, kidney stones produce an excruciating pain that is among the worst known to man (or woman). Some are more prone to developing the condition than others, but until recent research on kidneys in mice the cause of the stones remained a mystery. The culprit is in the genes.

Study dusts sugar coating off little-known regulation in cells

April 17, 2012 7:47 am | by Mary Beckman | News | Comments

In a recent study, a Pacific National Northwest Laboratory team led by 2010 Scientist of the Year Richard D. Smith at least doubled the number of proteins found to be subject to a type of regulation based on a sugar known as O -GlcNAc. The finding is potentially crucial to an understanding of the type of regulatory system that allows protein tangling associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Study amplifies understanding of hearing in baleen whales

April 17, 2012 7:38 am | News | Comments

In the first successful study of intact baleen whale head anatomy using computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, biologists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have now learned that baleen whales have specialized fats leading to their auditory system. It’s a sophisticated hearing adaptation previously associated only with toothed whales.

Ultrasensitive biosensor holds potential for instant diagnostics

April 17, 2012 5:20 am | News | Comments

A new quantum mechanical-based biosensor designed by a team at University of California, Santa Barbara offers potential for detecting biomolecules at ultra-low concentrations. The research team’s technology beats the fundamental limits of a conventional field-effect transistor (FET) designing a Tunnel-FET sensor that is faster and four orders of magnitude more sensitive.

Licorice root found to contain anti-diabetic substance

April 17, 2012 4:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have discovered promising anti-diabetic substance in the amorfrutin class of natural substances, which are found in licorice and Amorpha fruticosa bush found in North America. The binding of these molecules, the scientists say, reduces the plasma concentration of certain fatty acids and glucose associated with diabetes or fatty liver conditions.

Why do plants grow toward the light?

April 16, 2012 12:07 pm | News | Comments

The simple answer is auxin, a plant hormone. But the transport of auxin through the plant is a complex and little-understood process. Recent research in Europe has identified an important new link in this process, finding that auxin is stored in specific sites.

Fine-scale analysis illuminates human brain’s composition

April 16, 2012 3:57 am | News | Comments

A study of the expression of approximately 1,000 genes in the brains of individual humans and mice has shed light on the human brain’s structure and its high degree of similarity among humans. Only 5% of the nearly 1,000 genes surveyed in three particular regions show differences in expression between humans, and even compared mice there is great consistency.

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