A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks. Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere—probably bats—but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature.
An international team of scientists has shown that an antibody against the protein EphA3, found in the micro-environment of solid cancers, has anti-tumor effects. As EphA3 is present in normal organs only during embryonic development but is expressed in blood cancers and in solid tumors, this antibody-based approach may be a suitable candidate treatment for solid tumors.
RNA origami is a new method, developed by researchers from Denmark and California, for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Using just a single strand of RNA, many complicated shapes can be fabricated by this technique. Unlike existing methods for folding DNA molecules, RNA origamis are produced by enzymes and they simultaneously fold into pre-designed shapes.
The physical properties of the ultra-white scales on certain species of beetle could be used to make whiter paper, plastics and paints, while using far less material than is used in current manufacturing methods. Current technology is not able to produce a coating as white as these beetles can in such a thin layer, and spectroscopic analyses are revealing how this colorization is achieved through a dense complex network of chitin.
Previous research into the health impacts of in utero exposure to the 9/11 dust cloud on birth outcomes has shown little evidence of consistent effects. But according to a new paper pregnant women living near the World Trade Center during 9/11 experienced higher-than-normal negative birth outcomes. These mothers were more likely to give birth prematurely and deliver babies with low birth weights.
Researchers in Texas have successfully used a new gene editing method to correct a mutation that leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in a mouse model of the condition. The technique is called CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing, and can precisely remove a mutation in DNA, allowing the body’s DNA repair mechanisms to replace it with a normal copy of the gene.
Conventional wisdom holds that the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a viscous fluid, with organelles and proteins suspended within it, jiggling against one another and drifting at random. However, a new biophysical study led by researchers at Harvard Univ. challenges this model and reveals that those drifting objects are subject to a very different type of environment.
Scientists at Yale Univ. have developed a novel cancer immunotherapy that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites; the immune cells can then be injected back into a patient’s blood to boost the immune response or fight cancer.
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms. The discovery of the role of this gene, called Lhx1, provides scientists with a potential therapeutic target to help night-shift workers or jet lagged travelers adjust to time differences more quickly. The results, published in eLife, can point to treatment strategies for sleep problems caused by a variety of disorders.
Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available.
A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is okay for heart health—and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists. Limiting salt is still important for people with high blood pressure.
A smart technology which involves smuggling gold nanoparticles into brain cancer cells has proven highly effective in lab-based tests in the U.K. The technique could eventually be used to treat glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most common and aggressive brain tumor in adults, and notoriously difficult to treat.
Surgical and trauma patients are at significant risk for morbidity and mortality from bleeding and/or leaking bodily fluids. With the number and complexity of surgeries rising, so is the need for better hemostatic agents to stop bleeding as quickly as possible. The history of approaches to hemostasis goes back to when people simply used their hands or a tool to apply to a wound to stop bleeding.
The Univ. of California, San Diego’s Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility (Nano3) is the first institution to obtain a new FEI Scios dual-beam microscope, with an adaptation for use at cryogenic temperatures. The new microscope allows biologists to nanomachine cells to reduce them to the thickness required for electron microscopy without creating any sample distortions and while maintaining cryogenic temperatures.
R&D Magazine introduced its annual Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and its Innovator of the Year Award winner, Dr. Hugh Herr. As R&D Magazine's 49th Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Deisseroth is one of the United States’ leading researchers in the rapidly growing field of optogenetics, having invented several new technologies in support of efforts to understand neural functions in the human brain.
The human brain remains one of the least understood organs in the human body, because of its complexity and the difficulty of studying its physiology in the living body. Tufts Univ. researchers announced development of the first reported complex 3-D model made of brain-like cortical tissue that exhibits biochemical and electrophysiological responses and can function in the laboratory for months.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and five other institutions have created a molecule that can cause cancer cells to self-destruct by ferrying sodium and chloride ions into the cancer cells. These synthetic ion transporters confirm a two-decades-old hypothesis that could point the way to new anticancer drugs while also benefitting patients with cystic fibrosis.
Nature’s artistic and engineering skills are evident in proteins. Scientists at Rice Univ. have now employed their unique theories to show how the interplay between evolution and physics developed these skills. The team used computer models to show that the energy landscapes that describe how nature selects viable protein sequences over evolutionary timescales employ the same forces as those that allow proteins to fold.
The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the golden age of dinosaurs, during which the prehistoric giants roamed the Earth for nearly 135 million years. Paleontologists have unearthed numerous fossils from these periods, suggesting that dinosaurs were abundant throughout the world. But where and when dinosaurs first came into existence has been difficult to ascertain.
Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, has proven notoriously resistant to scientists’ efforts to study its genetics. It can take up to a year to determine the function of a single gene, which has slowed efforts to develop new, more targeted drugs and vaccines. Biological engineers have now demonstrated a new genome-editing technique that can disrupt a single parasite gene in a matter of weeks.
In the developing brain, special proteins that act like molecular tugboats push or pull on growing nerve cells, or neurons, helping them navigate to their assigned places amidst the brain’s wiring. How a single protein can exert both a push and a pull force to nudge a neuron in the desired direction is a longstanding mystery that has now been solved by scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
A Purdue Univ. study shows that Notch signaling, a key biological pathway tied to development and cell communication, also plays an important role in the onset of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, a discovery that offers new targets for treatment. The research team found that blocking Notch signaling in the fat tissue of mice caused white fat cells to transform into a "leaner" type of fat known as beige fat.
Recent research has made a significant contribution to the understanding of a new field of DNA research that is based on a repetitive piece of DNA in the bacterial genome called a CRISPR. The study provides the first detailed blueprint for this multi-subunit “molecular machinery” that bacteria use to detect and destroy invading viruses.
A bug can turn you into a vegetarian, or at least make you swear off red meat. Doctors across the nation are seeing a surge of sudden meat allergies in people bitten by a certain kind of tick. This bizarre problem was only discovered a few years ago but is growing as the ticks spread from the Southwest and the East to more parts of the United States.
Brain tumors fly under the radar of the body’s defense forces by coating their cells with extra amounts of a specific protein, new research at the Univ. of Michigan shows. The findings, made in mice and rats, show the key role of a protein called galectin-1 in some of the most dangerous brain tumors, called high grade malignant gliomas. The stealth approach lets the tumors hide until it’s too late for the body to defeat them.