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National Xenopus Resource at MBL innovates new way to study proteins

July 17, 2014 10:45 am | by Laurel Hamers, Marine Biological Laboratory | News | Comments

Many organisms that hold potential for proteomic analysis do not yet have a completely sequenced genome because the costs are prohibitive. Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, is one such species. Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory have found a work-around. Instead of relying on DNA, they used mRNA sequences to more efficiently create a reference database that can be used for proteomic analysis of Xenopus.

Cell membrane proteins give up their secrets

July 17, 2014 8:03 am | Videos | Comments

Biological physicists at Rice Univ. have succeeded in analyzing transmembrane protein folding in the same way they study the proteins’ free-floating, globular cousins. They have applied energy landscape theory to proteins that are hard to view because they are inside cell membranes. The method should increase the technique’s value to researchers who study proteins implicated in diseases and possibly in the creation of drugs to treat them.

Are ants the answer to carbon dioxide sequestration?

July 17, 2014 7:24 am | News | Comments

A 25-year-long study published in Geology provides the first quantitative measurement of in situ calcium-magnesium silicate mineral dissolution by ants, termites, tree roots, and bare ground. This study reveals that ants are one of the most powerful biological agents of mineral decay yet observed. This discovery might offer a line of research on how to "geoengineer" accelerated carbon dioxide consumption by Ca-Mg silicates.

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Trying gene therapy to create biological pacemaker

July 16, 2014 2:22 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

No batteries required: Scientists are creating a biological pacemaker by injecting a gene into the hearts of sick pigs that changed ordinary cardiac cells into a special kind that induces a steady heartbeat. The study, published Wednesday, is one step toward developing an alternative to electronic pacemakers that are implanted into 300,000 Americans a year.

Entomology research fights mosquitoes with mosquitoes

July 15, 2014 4:58 pm | Videos | Comments

Researchers in Kentucky have developed a technology that uses male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium. Called MosquitoMate, the new technology has been issued an experimental use permit for open field releases targeting the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, which is a vector for newly introduced pathogens like the Chikungunya virus.

Removing parts of shape-shifting protein explains how blood clots

July 15, 2014 1:54 pm | News | Comments

Prothrombin is an inactive precursor for thrombin, a key blood-clotting protein, and is essential for life because of its ability to coagulate blood. Using x-ray crystallography, researchers have published the first image of this important protein. By removing disordered sections of the protein’s structure, scientists have revealed its underlying molecular mechanism for the first time.

Technology could screen for emerging viral diseases

July 15, 2014 11:58 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A microbe detection array technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists could provide a new rapid method for public health authorities to conduct surveillance for emerging viral diseases. This possible use of the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA) was studied by an international team of researchers from eight nations in a paper published in the PLOS ONE.

Study: Friends share similarities in their DNA

July 15, 2014 9:20 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

You may be more similar to your friends than you think. A new study suggests that the DNA code tends to be more alike between friends than between strangers, and the similarity goes beyond the effect of shared ethnicity. The difference is slight but detectable and consistent, and the finding could be important for theories about human evolution.

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Capturing cancer: A powerful, new technique for early diagnosis

July 15, 2014 8:28 am | by Richard Harth, Arizona State Univ. Biodesign Institute | News | Comments

Despite impressive medical strides, cancer remains a leading killer and overwhelming burden to healthcare systems, causing well over a half million fatalities per year with a projected cost of $174 billion by 2020, according to the National Cancer Institute. Reducing the human and economic toll will require diagnosis and intervention at early stages of illness, when the best prognosis for a cure exists.

Study: U.S. Alzheimer's rate seems to be dropping

July 15, 2014 3:17 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in the U.S. and some other rich countries—good news about an epidemic that is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age, new studies show. An American over age 60 today has a 44% lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago, the longest study of these trends in the U.S. concluded.

Flower development in 3-D: Timing is the key

July 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

Developmental processes in all living organisms are controlled by genes. At the same time there is a continuous metabolism taking place. Recent research in Austria has analyzed this interaction in flowering plants. For the first time, changes in metabolism were linked to 3-D morphometric data using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) for the first time.

3-D printed anatomy to mark a new era for medical training

July 14, 2014 11:32 am | News | Comments

The creators of a unique kit containing 3-D printed anatomical body parts say it will revolutionize medical education and training, especially in countries where cadaver use is problematic. The “3D Printed Anatomy Series”, developed by experts in Australia, is thought to be the first commercially available resource of its kind. The kit contains no human tissue, yet it provides all the major parts of the body required to teach anatomy.

Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

July 14, 2014 7:46 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Biophysics researchers have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet. The findings could potentially help engineers make more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems.

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Anthrax scare reveals more CDC lab safety problems

July 11, 2014 5:18 pm | by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press Medical Writer | News | Comments

Citing an anthrax scare and other safety problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said it shut down two research labs and stopped shipping highly dangerous germs to other labs. An incident at one of the closed Atlanta laboratories could have accidentally exposed workers in three labs to anthrax last month. A second, previously undisclosed problem earlier this year involved deadly bird flu.

Bacteria: A day in the life

July 11, 2014 7:50 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

We are all creatures of habit, and a new study finds ocean bacteria are no exception. In a paper published in Science, researchers report that microbes in the open ocean follow predictable patterns of biological activity, such as eating, breathing and growing. Certain species are early risers, exhibiting genetic signs of respiration, metabolism and protein synthesis in the morning hours, while others rouse to action later in the day.

New technologies fuel patient participation, data collection in research

July 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Duke Medicine News and Communications | News | Comments

The changing dynamic of health studies driven by “big data” research projects will empower patients to become active participants who provide real-time information such as symptoms, side effects and clinical outcomes, according to researchers at Duke Medicine. The analysislays out a new paradigm for health research, particularly comparative effectiveness studies that are designed to assess which therapies work best in clinical practice.

Study cracks how the brain processes emotions

July 10, 2014 7:35 am | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Although feelings are personal and subjective, the human brain turns them into a standard code that objectively represents emotions across different senses, situations and even people. A Cornell Univ. team's findings provide insight into how the brain represents our innermost feelings and upend the long-held view that emotion is represented in the brain simply by activation in specialized regions for positive or negative feelings.

Study: Psych drug ER trips approach 90,000 a year

July 9, 2014 6:23 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Bad reactions to psychiatric drugs result in nearly 90,000 emergency room visits each year by U.S. adults, with anti-anxiety medicines and sedatives among the most common culprits, a study suggests. A drug used in some popular sleeping pills was among the most commonly involved sedatives, especially in adults aged 65 and older.

Even geckos can lose their grip

July 9, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

Geckos and spiders seem to be able to sit still forever upside down. But sooner or later the grip is lost, no matter how little force is acting on it. Engineers, using scanning electron microscopy, have recently demonstrated why this is so by showing how heat, and the subsequent movement of molecules at the nanoscale, eventually force loss of adhesion.

Tiny DNA pyramids enter bacteria easily

July 9, 2014 11:49 am | News | Comments

Bacterial infections usually announce themselves with pain and fever but often can be defeated with antibiotics—and then there are those that are sneaky and hard to beat. Now, scientists have built a new weapon against such pathogens in the form of tiny DNA pyramids. Published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, their study found the nanopyramids can flag bacteria and kill more of them than medicine alone.

When faced with some sugars, bacteria can be picky eaters

July 9, 2014 8:31 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Minnesota have found, for the first time, that genetically identical strains of bacteria can respond very differently to the presence of sugars and other organic molecules in the environment, with some individual bacteria devouring the sugars and others ignoring it.

Unprecedented detail of intact neuronal receptor offers blueprint for drug developers

July 9, 2014 8:23 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists succeeded in obtaining an unprecedented view of a type of brain cell receptor that is implicated in a range of neurological illnesses. The team of biologists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory used the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory to get an atomic-level picture of the intact NMDA (N-methyl, D-aspartate) receptor should serve as template and guide for the design of therapeutic compounds.

Scientists uncover new compounds that could affect circadian rhythm

July 9, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a surprising new role for a pair of compounds—which have the potential to alter circadian rhythm, the complex physiological process that responds to a cycle of light and dark and is present in most living things. At least one of these compounds could be developed as a chemical probe to uncover new therapeutic approaches to a range of disorders, including diabetes and obesity.

Food allergies: A new, simple method to track down allergens

July 8, 2014 1:20 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a fast and accurate method for determining exactly which proteins cause allergies to milk. The novel approach, which is based on a specialized form of laser desorption-ionization mass spectrometry, is highly personalized and can extend to other foods as well.

Scientists report contradictory findings on the effect of full moon on sleep

July 8, 2014 10:24 am | by Krister Svahn, Univ. of Gothenberg | News | Comments

Studies through the years have attempted to prove or disprove the hypothesis that lunar phases affect human sleep. But results have been hard to repeat. A Swiss research study conducted last year showed that the full moon does affect sleep. The findings demonstrated that people average 20 minutes less sleep, take five minutes longer to fall asleep and experience 30 minutes more of REM sleep, during which most dreaming is believed to occur.

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