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Targeted Healing of the Immune System

February 9, 2014 10:00 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

In the U.S. about 12,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer a year. Out of these women, about 4,500 progress into invasive cervical cancer or the end stage of the disease. This leaves about 8,000 women a year in the U.S. that are cured through existing standard of care treatment: surgery or chemotherapy/radiation. However, chemotherapy/radiation have terrible side effects in some cases.

Inner workings of a cellular nanomotor revealed

February 5, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Our cells produce thousands of proteins, but more than one-third of these proteins can fulfill their function only after migrating to the outside of the cell. While it is known that protein migration occurs with the help of various “nanomotors” that push proteins out of the cell, little is known about their precise mechanical functioning. New research reveals the inner workings of one such nanomotor, called SecA, with new clarity.

Cell membrane studied as future diagnostic tool

January 31, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and in Lithuania have used a NIST-developed laboratory model of a simplified cell membrane to accurately detect and measure a protein associated with a serious gynecological disease, bacterial vaginosis (BV), at extraordinarily low concentrations. The work illustrates how the artificial membrane could be used to improve disease diagnosis.

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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.

Antibiotic “smart bomb” can target specific strains of bacteria

January 30, 2014 10:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

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.

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.

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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.

Engineer converts yeast cells into “sweet crude” biofuel

January 22, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a new source of renewable energy, a biofuel, from genetically engineered yeast cells and ordinary table sugar. This yeast produces oils and fats, known as lipids, that can be used in place of petroleum-derived products.

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.

New test targets salmonella

January 22, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

An array of tiny diving boards can perform the Olympian feat of identifying many strains of salmonella at once. The novel biosensor developed by scientists at Rice Univ. in collaboration with colleagues in Thailand and Ireland may make the detection of pathogens much faster and easier for food-manufacturing plants.

Clever chemistry and a new class of antibiotics

January 17, 2014 12:51 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

As concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics grow, researchers are racing to find new kinds of drugs to replace ones that are no longer effective. One promising new class of molecules called acyldepsipeptides, ADEPs, kills bacteria in a way that no marketed antibacterial drug does. Now, researchers have shown that giving the ADEPs more backbone can dramatically increase their biological potency.

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Project aims to produce liquid transportation fuel from methane

January 16, 2014 8:13 am | News | Comments

How’s this for innovative: A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory-led team hopes to engineer a new enzyme that efficiently converts methane to liquid transportation fuel. Methane is the main component of natural gas and biogas from wastewater treatments and landfills. Another source is stranded natural gas, which is currently flared or vented at remote oil fields, and which represents an enormous unused energy resource.

Hugging hemes help electrons hop

January 15, 2014 3:49 pm | News | Comments

Researchers simulating how certain bacteria run electrical current through tiny molecular wires have discovered a secret nature uses for electron travel. The results are key to understanding how the bacteria do chemistry in the ground, and will help researchers use them in microbial fuel cells, batteries or for turning waste into electricity.

Bacterial syringe necessary for marine animal development

January 15, 2014 8:04 am | News | Comments

If you've ever slipped on a slimy wet rock at the beach, you have bacteria to thank. Those bacteria, nestled in a supportive extracellular matrix, form bacterial biofilms. For some marine organisms, these biofilms serve a vital purpose, flagging suitable homes for such organisms and actually aiding the transformation of larvae to adults. A new study is the first to describe a mechanism for this phenomenon.

Microbes swap for tiny goods in minuscule markets, researchers find

January 14, 2014 2:32 pm | News | Comments

A closer look at microbes reveals there is big business going on in their very small world, and sometimes we are part of the transaction. In a published report, an international team of researchers argue that microbes, like many animals, can evolve into savvy traders, selling high and buying low.

New way to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Target human cells instead

January 10, 2014 12:07 pm | News | Comments

As more reports appear of a grim “post-antibiotic era” ushered in by the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, a new strategy for fighting infection is emerging that targets a patient’s cells rather than those of the invading pathogens. The approach involves looking at a class of proteins called phosphatases that is crucial for bacterial but involves the use of the host cell’s machinery.

Ahoy! First ocean vesicles spotted

January 10, 2014 10:35 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT | News | Comments

Marine cyanobacteria are primary engines of Earth’s biogeochemical and nutrient cycles. They nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and with their own body mass. Now, scientists have discovered another dimension of the outsized role played by these tiny cells: The cyanobacteria continually produce and release vesicles, spherical packages containing nutrients that can serve as food parcels for marine organisms.

Cilia use different motors for different tasks

January 10, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

Cilia are one of nature’s great multipurpose tools. The tiny, hair-like fibers protrude from cell membranes and perform all kinds of tasks in all kinds of creatures, from helping clear debris from human lungs to enabling single-celled organisms to swim. Now, physicists from Brown Univ. have discovered something that could help scientists understand how cilia have been adapted for so many varied tasks.

How to tell good microbes from bad

January 9, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

To safely use bacteria in agriculture to help fertilize crops, it is vital to understand the difference between harmful and healthy strains. The bacterial genus Burkholderia, for example, includes dangerous disease-causing pathogens—one species has even been listed as a potential bioterrorist agent—but also many species that are safe and important for plant development.

Synthetic genetic clock checks the thermometer

January 7, 2014 12:29 pm | Videos | Comments

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.

Tiny acts of microbe justice help reveal how nature fights freeloaders

January 7, 2014 10:37 am | News | Comments

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.

Yeast’s lifestyle couples mating with meiosis

January 6, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

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.

Single bacterial super-clone behind epidemic of drug-resistant E. coli

December 18, 2013 3:38 pm | News | Comments

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.

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