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Frozen for 1,600 years, Antarctic moss revived

March 19, 2014 8:43 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have revived a moss plant that was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun. Dug up from Antarctica, the simple moss was about 1,600 years old, black and looked dead. But when it was thawed in a British lab's incubator, it grew again.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

Fast synthesis could boost drug development

March 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells. Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018. However, a major bottleneck has prevented peptide drugs from reaching their full potential.

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Scientists slow development of Alzheimer’s trademark cell-killing plaques

March 18, 2014 10:12 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers have learned how to fix a cellular structure called the Golgi that mysteriously becomes fragmented in all Alzheimer's patients and appears to be a major cause of the disease. They say that understanding this mechanism helps decode amyloid plaque formation in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, plaques that kills cells and contributes to memory loss and other Alzheimer's symptoms.

Scientists track evolution of a superbug

March 18, 2014 8:59 am | News | Comments

Using genome sequencing, National Institutes of Health scientists and their colleagues have tracked the evolution of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae sequence type 258 (ST258), an important agent of hospital-acquired infections. Their results promise to help guide the development of new strategies to diagnose, prevent and treat this emerging public health threat.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Tension triggers muscle building

March 18, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

Skeletal muscles are built from small contractile units, the sarcomeres. Many of these sarcomeres are connected in a well-ordered series to form myofibrils that span from one muscle end to the other. Scientists recently identified a key mechanism how this basic muscle architecture is built during development.

Bacterial reporters that get the scoop

March 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

It's a jungle in there. In the tightly woven ecosystem of the human gut, trillions of bacteria compete with each other on a daily basis while they sense and react to signals from the immune system, ingested food and other bacteria. Problems arise when bad gut bugs overtake friendly ones, or when the immune system is thrown off balance.

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Nanopores control inner ear’s ability to select sounds

March 18, 2014 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Even in a crowded room full of background noise, the human ear is remarkably adept at tuning in to a single voice—a feat that has proved remarkably difficult for computers to match. A new analysis of the underlying mechanisms, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has provided insights that could ultimately lead to better machine hearing, and perhaps to better hearing aids as well.

Team implants human innate immune cells in mice

March 17, 2014 11:51 am | by Helen Dodson, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Overcoming a major limitation to the study of the origins and progress of human disease, Yale Univ. researchers report that they have transplanted human innate immune cells into mouse models, which resulted in human immune responses. This study has reproduced human immune function at a level not seen previously, and could significantly improve the translation of knowledge gained from mouse studies into humans.

Vast gene-expression map yields neurological, environmental stress insights

March 17, 2014 8:22 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A consortium led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted the largest survey yet of how information encoded in an animal genome is processed in different organs, stages of development and environmental conditions. Their findings paint a new picture of how genes function in the nervous system and in response to environmental stress.

An equation to describe the competition between genes

March 17, 2014 8:08 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions.

In the laboratory, scientists coax E. coli to resist radiation damage

March 17, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Capitalizing on the ability of an organism to evolve in response to punishment from a hostile environment, scientists have coaxed the model bacterium Escherichia coli to dramatically resist ionizing radiation and, in the process, reveal the genetic mechanisms that make the feat possible. The study provides evidence that just a handful of genetic mutations give E. coli the capacity to withstand doses of radiation.

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Big data tackles tiny molecular machines

March 14, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.

Nasty nanoinjectors pose a new target for antibiotic research

March 14, 2014 12:03 pm | News | Comments

If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.

New high-throughput method proposed for screening, ranking anti-aging drugs

March 14, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have proposed a new computer-based method of screening drugs that could be used to slow the aging process in humans. The proposed method uses gene expression data from “young” and “old” tissues to construct the cloud of molecular signalling pathways involved in ageing and longevity. It then evaluates the effects of a large number of drugs and drug combinations to emulate a youthful state for cells and tissues.

What happened when? How the brain stores memories by time

March 13, 2014 12:54 pm | News | Comments

Very often, our memories must distinguish not just what happened and where, but when an event occurred, and what came before and after. New research from the Univ. of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience shows that a part of the brain called the hippocampus stores memories by their "temporal context": what happened before, and what came after.

Research update: Battling infection with microbes

March 13, 2014 8:19 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The human relationship with microbial life is complicated. At almost any supermarket, you can pick up both antibacterial soap and probiotic yogurt during the same shopping trip. Although there are types of bacteria that can make us sick, a California Institute of Technology team is most interested in the thousands of other bacteria, many already living inside our bodies, that actually keep us healthy.

Cheaper, more aggressive prostate cancer treatment may also be riskier

March 12, 2014 11:40 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A faster and less expensive form of radiotherapy for treating prostate cancer may come at a price, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers—a higher rate of urinary toxicity or urine poisoning. The standard therapy for prostate cancer is called intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a newer treatment that delivers a greater dose of radiation than IMRT.

Scientists “herd” cells in new approach to tissue engineering

March 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering.

Lignin breakthroughs serve as GPS for plant research

March 12, 2014 7:57 am | by D'Lyn Ford, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed the equivalent of GPS directions for future plant scientists to understand how plants adapt to the environment and to improve plants’ productivity and biofuel potential. Two articles published in The Plant Cell offer a step-by-step approach for studying plant traits, drawing on comprehensive, quantitative research on lignin formation in black cottonwood.

U.S. gene mapping study shows promise, challenges

March 11, 2014 6:20 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

These days, it's faster and cheaper than ever to decipher a person's entire DNA. But a small U.S. study suggests that looking for disease risks that way may not be ready for the masses. For one thing, the research found that gene variants most likely linked with significant disease were the least likely to be accurately identified.

Technique uses ATP as trigger for targeted anti-cancer drug delivery

March 11, 2014 12:50 pm | News | Comments

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a new technique that uses adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP), the so-called “energy molecule,” to trigger the release of anti-cancer drugs directly into cancer cells. Early laboratory tests show it increases the effectiveness of drugs targeting breast cancer. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sweet smell of sustainability

March 11, 2014 8:34 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the Univ. of California, Davis Dept. of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most. That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters, molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels.

How tumors escape

March 11, 2014 7:43 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

About 90% of cancer deaths are caused by tumors that have spread from their original locations. This process, known as metastasis, requires cancer cells to break loose from their neighbors and from the supportive scaffold that gives tissues their structure. Cancer biologists have now discovered that certain proteins in this structure, known as the extracellular matrix, help cancer cells make their escape.

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