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Geneticists evaluate cost-effective genome analysis

October 17, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Scientists perform genome sequences because want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. However, sequencing a complete genome still costs around $1,000, and sequencing hundreds of individuals would be costly. In two recent review papers, scientists discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups, or pool sequencing, can be an efficient and cost-effective approach.

Designing antibiotics of the future

October 17, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

Scientists have used computer simulations to show how bacteria are able to destroy antibiotics, a breakthrough which will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future. Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol focused on the role of enzymes in the bacteria, which split the structure of the antibiotic and stop it working, making the bacteria resistant. 

LLNL, UC Davis partner to personalize cancer medications

October 17, 2014 8:27 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

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Biological sample prep time cut dramatically

October 16, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers invented the field of biological accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in the late 1980s, the process of preparing the samples was time-consuming and cumbersome. Physicists and biomedical researchers used torches, vacuum lines, special chemistries and high degrees of skill to convert biological samples into graphite targets that could then be run through the AMS system.

Ultrasound reveals secrets of deadly abdominal aortic aneurysms

October 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are exploring the usefulness of ultrasound imaging to study dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulging of the aorta that is usually fatal when it ruptures and for which there is no effective medical treatment. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 15,000 annually.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Effects of high-risk Parkinson’s mutation are reversible

October 15, 2014 9:01 am | by Amy Pullan, Media Relations Office, University of Sheffield | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease, however the basis for this link is unclear.  

Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

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Rock-dwelling microbes remove methane from deep sea

October 14, 2014 1:26 pm | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study. The rock-dwelling microbes represent a previously unrecognized biological sink for methane and as a result could reshape scientists' understanding of where this greenhouse gas is being consumed in subseafloor habitats.

Discovery of cellular snooze button advances cancer and biofuel research

October 14, 2014 12:53 pm | by Michigan State Univ. Media Communications | News | Comments

The discovery of a cellular snooze button has allowed a team of Michigan State Univ. scientists to potentially improve biofuel production and offer insight on the early stages of cancer. The discovery finds the protein CHT7 is a likely repressor of cellular quiescence, or resting state. This cellular switch, which influences algae’s growth and oil production, also wields control of cellular growth—and tumor growth—in humans.

ALS progression linked to increased protein instability

October 14, 2014 8:14 am | by Jon Weiner, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other institutions suggests a cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The team's work supports a common theme whereby loss of protein stability leads to disease.

All that glitters is...slimy? Gold nanoparticles measure snot stickiness

October 13, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Scientists create mimic of “good” cholesterol to fight heart disease, stroke

October 13, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.

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DNA’s security system unveiled

October 13, 2014 9:04 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | Videos | Comments

As befitting life’s blueprint, DNA is surrounded by an elaborate security system that assures crucial information is imparted without error. The security is provided by a double membrane perforated by protein channels that block unwanted material from entering the nucleus and promote entry of key messengers.

What to do about the dwindling stock of antibiotics

October 13, 2014 8:57 am | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that at least 2 million Americans are sickened by antibiotic resistant infections each year and survive. Twenty-three thousand die. These experiences leave deep impressions not just on the patients but on their family and friends.

Can all U.S. hospitals safely treat Ebola?

October 13, 2014 4:38 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A breach of infection control resulting in a Dallas health worker getting Ebola raises fresh questions about whether hospitals truly can safely take care of people with the deadly virus, as health officials insist is possible. Even in the U.S., with the best conditions and protective gear available, mistakes can happen that expose more people to Ebola, the new case reveals.

Autism as a disorder of prediction

October 10, 2014 11:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Autism is characterized by many different symptoms: difficulty interacting with others, repetitive behaviors and hypersensitivity to sound and other stimuli. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have put forth a new hypothesis that accounts for these behaviors and may provide a neurological foundation for many of the disparate features of the disorder.

Molecular structure of Hep C envelope protein unveiled

October 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects 160 million people worldwide. There’s no vaccine for HCV and the few treatments that are available do not work on all variants of the virus. Before scientists can develop potential vaccines and additional therapies they must first thoroughly understand the molecular-level activity that takes place when the virus infects a host cell.

DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

Researchers capture images of elusive protein HIV uses to infect cells

October 9, 2014 11:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV is adept at eluding immune system responses because the protein it uses to infect cells is constantly changing. Now a team of researchers including scientists from Yale Univ. have stripped the cloak from this master of disguise, providing a high-resolution image of this surface spike protein and monitoring how it constantly changes its shape, information that suggests new ways to attack the virus through drugs and vaccines.

“Cyberwar” against cancer gets boost from intelligent nanocarriers

October 9, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

New research involving scientists in the U.S. and Israel offers new insight into the lethal interaction between cancer cells and the immune system's communications network. The study authors devised a new computer program that models a specific channel of cell-to-cell communication involving exosomes that both cancer and immune cells harness to communicate with other cells. This “cyberwarfare” model reveals three distinct states of cancer.

New weapons against multi-drug resistance in tuberculosis

October 9, 2014 8:51 am | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that infects the lungs of an estimated 8.6 million people worldwide. The fight against the disease is hampered by the fact that treatment requires a long time and that the bacterium often develops multi-drug resistance. Scientists have used a sensitive screening assay to test new compounds that can be used against the bacterium, and have discovered two small molecules that show remarkable promise.

New way to extract bone-making cells from fat tissue

October 9, 2014 8:23 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Within our fat lives a variety of cells with the potential to become bone, cartilage or more fat if properly prompted. This makes adipose tissue, in theory, a readily available reservoir for regenerative therapies such as bone healing if doctors can get enough of those cells and compel them to produce bone. In a new study, scientists demonstrate a new method for extracting a wide variety of potential bone-producing cells from human fat.

Technology that controls brain cells with radio waves earns early BRAIN grant

October 8, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A proposal to develop a new way to remotely control brain cells from Sarah Stanley, a research associate in Rockefeller Univ.’s Laboratory of Molecular Genetics is among the first to receive funding from President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative. The project will make use of a technique called radiogenetics that combines the use of radio waves or magnetic fields with nanoparticles to turn neurons on or off.

Neuroscientists use snail research to help explain “chemo brain”

October 8, 2014 12:00 pm | News | Comments

It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.

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