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Team Sees Circadian Clock Gene that Strengthens Crop

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by Dartmouth | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a circadian clock gene that helps a key crop plant to withstand extreme cold and salty conditions, which could help to develop hardier crops with improved yield. The next step is to extend these studies to corn, rice, wheat and soybean, the world's four major crops.  

Researchers Explain How Aluminum Damages Crops

March 9, 2015 10:02 am | by The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.  

Researchers Untangle DNA

March 9, 2015 8:51 am | by Florida International Univ. | News | Comments

While today’s human body contains a variety of these proteins, a marine sciences professor believes they evolved from a single ancestor millions of years ago. This find is pivotal in unraveling the mysteries of DNA organization and regulation, and could someday lead to innovative biomonitoring strategies and therapies targeting a variety of diseases including cancer.

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Heart-on-a-chip Aids Drug Screening

March 9, 2015 8:00 am | by UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Bioengineers are presenting a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells housed in an inch-long silicone device that effectively models human heart tissue. They have demonstrated the viability of this system as a drug-screening tool by testing it with cardiovascular medications.  

Researchers map switches that shaped the evolution of the human brain

March 6, 2015 1:10 pm | by Lindsay Borthwick, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale Univ. School of Medicine. Unlike in rhesus monkeys and mice, these switches show increased activity in humans, where they may drive the expression of genes in the cerebral cortex.

Twin copies of gene pair up in embryonic stem cells at critical moment in differentiation

March 6, 2015 8:45 am | by Peter Tarr, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine a pair of twins that everyone believed to be estranged, who turn out to be closer than anyone knew. A genetic version of this heartwarming tale might be taking place in our cells. We and other mammals have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Each copy, or "allele," was thought to remain physically apart from the other in the cell nucleus, but a new study finds that alleles can and do pair up in mammalian cells.

Research suggests brain’s melatonin may trigger sleep

March 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

If you walk into your local drug store and ask for a supplement to help you sleep, you might be directed to a bottle labeled "melatonin." The hormone supplement's use as a sleep aid is supported by anecdotal evidence and even some reputable research studies. However, our bodies also make melatonin naturally, and until a recent Caltech study using zebrafish, no one knew how melatonin contributed to our natural sleep.

Neuroscientists identify new way brain areas communicate

March 4, 2015 11:04 am | by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | News | Comments

Carnegie Mellon Univ. neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain’s striatum. The findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex.

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Genome reveals how Hessian fly causes galls in wheat

March 4, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers from 26 institutions around the world has sequenced the Hessian fly genome, shedding light on how the insect creates growth-stunting galls in wheat. Hessian fly larvae can destroy entire wheat fields by injecting seedlings with potent saliva that "hijacks" the plants' biochemistry, irreversibly halting development and forcing the seedlings to produce a leaky tissue that contains nutrients for the larvae.

Sizing up cells

March 3, 2015 8:40 am | by John Sullivan, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton Univ. researchers may have found the key in a dynamic agglomeration of molecules inside cells.

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight control and testing new therapies for obesity. To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

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Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 2, 2015 8:08 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, pipet and polymer

February 27, 2015 11:42 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought an efficient way to untangle DNA in order to study its structure under a microscope. Now, chemists and engineers at KU Leuven have devised a strikingly simple and effective solution: They inject genetic material into a droplet of water and use a pipet tip to drag it over a glass plate covered with a sticky polymer.

Cancer drug first tested in dogs begins human trials

February 27, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A new drug that prompts cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is now entering phase I clinical trials in humans. The drug, called PAC-1, first showed promise in the treatment of pet dogs with spontaneously occurring cancers, and is still in clinical trials in dogs with osteosarcoma.

Study maps extroversion types in brain’s anatomy

February 26, 2015 12:43 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” and the ambitious “go-getters”. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

The body’s transformers

February 26, 2015 8:59 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Videos | Comments

Like the shape-shifting robots of "Transformers" fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins lack a fixed or ordered 3-D structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications. A new study looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology.

Innovations in Cell Culture Technology Drive Drug Discovery Studies

February 24, 2015 9:14 am | by Cindy Neeley, PhD, Field Applications Scientist, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Labware & Specialty Plastics, Rochester, N.Y. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Scientists around the world make use of cell culture techniques on a daily basis. Whether they happen to be working with primary cell cultures, secondary cultures or cell lines, they all face many of the same problems: slow growth, spontaneous differentiation, evaporation, contamination and a host of other issues that require troubleshooting.

Computational Model Reveals the Importance of Transitional Dynamics of “Memory Molecule” in Memory Formation

February 24, 2015 9:01 am | by Glen C. Rains | Articles | Comments

The dynamics of a molecule abundant in the synapse, Ca2+/Calmodulin dependent kinase type II (CaMKII), known as the “memory molecule”, are important in memory formation. Synapses are junctions connecting neurons and there’s increasing evidence they store memory when neurons are stimulated by the environment.

Sobering effect of the love hormone

February 24, 2015 8:47 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, has a legendary status in popular culture due to its vital role in social and sexual behavior and long-term bonding. Now researchers from the Univ. of Sydney and the Univ. of Regensburg have discovered it also has a remarkable influence on the intoxicating effect of alcohol.

How brain waves guide memory formation

February 23, 2015 12:11 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our brains generate a constant hum of activity: As neurons fire, they produce brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. Long thought to be merely a byproduct of neuron activity, recent studies suggest that these waves may play a critical role in communication between different parts of the brain. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists adds to that evidence.

Motor proteins prefer slow, steady movement

February 23, 2015 10:43 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

It takes at least two motor proteins to tango, according to Rice Univ. scientists who discovered the workhorses that move cargo in cells are highly sensitive to the proximity of their peers. The study suggests that the collective behavior of motor proteins like kinesins keeps cellular transport systems robust by favoring slow and steady over maximum movement.

How T cells cause inflammation during infections

February 23, 2015 8:08 am | by Susan Griffith, Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Case Western Reserve Univ. dental researcher Pushpa Pandiyan has discovered a new way to model how infection-fighting T cells cause inflammation in mice. The hope is that the discovery can lead to new therapies or drugs that jump-start weakened or poorly functioning immune systems. Pandiyan believes the process could lead to identifying and testing new drugs to replace antifungal medicines.

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