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Killer sea snail a target for new drugs

July 7, 2015 7:00 am | by Gemma Ward, The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

Univ. of Queensland pain treatment researchers have discovered thousands of new peptide toxins hidden deep within the venom of just one type of Queensland cone snail. Researchers hope the new molecules will be promising leads for new drugs to treat pain and cancer.

Ion channel mechanics yield insights into optogenetics experiments

July 6, 2015 4:50 pm | by Tim Stephens, UC Santa Cruz | News | Comments

Optogenetics techniques, which allow scientists to map and control nerve cells using light...

Learning from biology to accelerate discovery

July 6, 2015 11:30 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A spider's web is one of the most intricate constructions in nature, but its precious silk has...

Why the BRCA gene resists cancer treatment

July 6, 2015 8:48 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. researchers have discovered why a key molecular assistant is crucial to the function...

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Discovery of nanotubes offers new clues about cell-to-cell communication

July 6, 2015 8:27 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

When it comes to communicating with each other, some cells may be more "old school" than was previously thought. Certain types of stem cells use microscopic, thread-like nanotubes to communicate with neighboring cells, like a landline phone connection, rather than sending a broadcast signal, researchers have discovered.

Developing a better way to screen chemicals for cancer-causing effects

June 26, 2015 7:29 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The vast majority of the thousands of chemicals in our homes and workplaces have not been tested to determine if they cause cancer. That’s because today’s options are lacking. Rodent tests are too slow, and cell culture tests don’t replicate how cells interact in the body, so their relevance to cancer is limited. Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have set out to change that.

Engineering new routes to biochemicals

June 26, 2015 6:51 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Living cells can make a vast range of products for us, but they don’t always do it in the most straightforward or efficient way. Shota Atsumi, a chemistry professor at the Univ. of California, Davis, aims to address that through “synthetic biology”: designing and building new biochemical pathways within living cells, based on existing pathways from other living things.

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Delivering drugs to the right place

June 26, 2015 6:37 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

For the 12 million people worldwide who suffer from polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disorder with no known cure, a new treatment option may be on the horizon. PKD is a condition in which clusters of benign cysts develop within the kidneys. They vary in size, and as they accumulate more and more fluid, they can become very large. Among the common complications of PKD are high blood pressure and kidney failure.

A new means to killing harmful bacteria

June 25, 2015 11:50 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

The global rise in antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to public health, damaging our ability to fight deadly infections such as tuberculosis. What’s more, efforts to develop new antibiotics are not keeping pace with this growth in microbial resistance, resulting in a pressing need for new approaches to tackle bacterial infection.

Eavesdropping on the body

June 24, 2015 11:00 am | by Tyler Irving, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Biomedical engineers at the Univ. of Toronto have invented a new device that more quickly and accurately “listens in” on the chemical messages that tell our cells how to multiply. The tool improves our understanding of how cancerous growth begins, and could identify new targets for cancer medications.

Medication may stop drug and alcohol addiction

June 23, 2015 8:47 am | by Marc Airhart, Univ. of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have successfully stopped cocaine and alcohol addiction in experiments using a drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat high blood pressure. If the treatment is proven effective in humans, it would be the first of its kind—one that could help prevent relapses by erasing the unconscious memories that underlie addiction.

Unpacking the mysteries of bacterial cell cycle regulation

June 22, 2015 12:50 pm | by Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

As part of their long-term investigation of regulatory factors in the bacterial cell cycle, molecular biologists at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst now report finding a surprising new role for one factor, CpdR, an adaptor that helps to regulate selective protein destruction, the main control mechanism of cell cycle progression in bacteria, at specific times.

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Seeing more deeply with laser light

June 22, 2015 8:47 am | by Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

A human skull, on average, is about 0.3 in thick, or roughly the depth of the latest smartphone. Human skin, on the other hand, is about 0.1 in, or about three grains of salt, deep. While these dimensions are extremely thin, they still present major hurdles for any kind of imaging with laser light.

How to wipe out polio and prevent its re-emergence

June 22, 2015 7:45 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Public health officials stand poised to eliminate polio from the planet. But a new study shows that the job won't be over when the last case of the horrible paralytic disease is recorded. Using disease-transmission models, a Univ. of Michigan team has demonstrated that silent transmission of poliovirus could continue for more than three years with no reported cases.

Uncovering a dynamic cortex

June 22, 2015 7:37 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proven that the brain’s cortex doesn’t process specific tasks in highly specialized modules, showing that the cortex is, in fact, quite dynamic when sharing information. Previous studies of the brain have depicted the cortex as a patchwork of function-specific regions.

New model to study HIV latency in brain cells

June 19, 2015 12:45 pm | by Helmholtz Zentrum Muchen | News | Comments

Over 35 million people worldwide are currently infected by HIV. Antiviral therapies can keep the virus from multiplying. However, no drug can cure infection so far, because various cell types continue to carry the virus in a latent, quiescent, state. Scientists have now established a model for latent HIV infection of brain cells. The researchers used this model to identify various compounds that affect latency of the virus in the brain.

Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle

June 19, 2015 9:55 am | by European Molecular Biology Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have solved a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades: How does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function? Endocytosis is the process by which cells engulf molecules and draw them inside the cell where they perform different functions.

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Brain receptor found to affect cocaine addiction

June 19, 2015 7:47 am | by Cathy Wilde, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. at Buffalo have discovered a previously unknown neural pathway that can regulate changes made in the brain due to cocaine use, providing new insight into the molecular basis of cocaine addiction.

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

June 19, 2015 7:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression. The findings offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences.

Humans’ built-in GPS is our 3-D sense of smell

June 18, 2015 7:57 am | by Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Like homing pigeons, humans have a nose for navigation because our brains are wired to convert smells into spatial information, new research shows. While humans may lack the scent-tracking sophistication of, say, a search-and-rescue dog, we can sniff our way, blindfolded, toward a location whose scent we’ve smelled only once before.

Researchers successfully target Achilles heel of MERS virus

June 17, 2015 7:49 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A Purdue Univ.-led team of researchers studying the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have found molecules that shut down the activity of an essential enzyme in the virus and could lead the way to better treatments for those infected.

Cell density remains constant as brain shrinks with age

June 15, 2015 7:54 am | by Sharon Parmet, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | News | Comments

New, ultra-high-field magnetic resonance images of the brain by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago provide the most detailed images to date to show that while the brain shrinks with age, brain cell density remains constant. The study, of cognitively normal young and old adults, was published in NMR in Biomedicine.

Setting the circadian clock

June 15, 2015 7:46 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

Often referred to as the "body clock", circadian rhythm controls what time of day people are most alert, hungry, tired or physically primed due to a complex biological process that is not unique to humans. Circadian rhythms, which oscillate over a roughly 24–hr cycle in adaptation to the Earth's rotation, have been observed in most living things on the planet, and are responsible for regulating many aspects of organisms' functions.

Scientists map surface of immune cells

June 15, 2015 7:37 am | by Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen | News | Comments

The immune system must constantly adapt to its environment in order to protect a body effectively. The so-called T cells are an important example in this regard. One of their functions is to form the immune system's "memory". Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technische Universität München recently examined the surface of precursors of these T cells and identified previously unknown proteins there.

Nanoparticles target, kill cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth

June 11, 2015 4:29 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Many cancer patients survive treatment only to have a recurrence within a few years. Recurrences and tumor spreading are likely due to cancer stem cells that can be tough to kill with conventional cancer drugs. But now researchers have designed nanoparticles that specifically target these hardy cells to deliver a drug. The nanoparticle treatment, reported in ACS Nano, worked far better than the drug alone in mice.

Gene variants linked to MS disrupt key regulator of inflammation

June 11, 2015 10:49 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

With genetic roots of many autoimmune diseases pinpointed, scientists are zeroing in on the variety of molecular mechanisms triggered by these harmful variants. A team led by Yale School of Medicine researchers has implicated a central regulator of inflammation as a cause of many cases of multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as ulcerative colitis.

Longstanding problem put to rest

June 11, 2015 9:51 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Comparing the genomes of different species is the basis of a great deal of modern biology. DNA sequences that are conserved across species are likely to be functionally important, while variations between members of the same species can indicate different susceptibilities to disease. The basic algorithm for determining how much two sequences of symbols have in common is now more than 40 years old.

Synthetic immune organ produces antibodies

June 11, 2015 9:32 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Cornell Univ. engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism. The engineered organ has implications for everything from rapid production of immune therapies to new frontiers in cancer or infectious disease research.

Fragile X proteins involved in proper neuron development

June 11, 2015 8:31 am | by Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited intellectual disability and the greatest single genetic contributor to autism. Unlocking the mechanisms behind fragile X could make important revelations about the brain. In a new study, researchers from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison show that two proteins implicated in fragile X play a crucial role in the proper development of neurons in mice.

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