Researchers at the National Eye Institute have described the functions of a gene responsible for anchoring cilia, which are sensory hair-like extensions present on almost every cell of the body. They show in a mouse model that without the gene Cc2d2a, cilia throughout the body failed to grow, and the mice died during the embryonic stage.
In a basement laboratory at Fort Sam Houston military base in Texas, a research team has spent the last two years simulating improvised explosive device blasts on postmortem pig eyes using a high-powered shock tube. Their most striking discovery is that these blasts can damage the optic nerve, and these injuries can occur even at low pressures, causing visual defects that until now have been associated traumatic brain injuries.
Mesenchymal stem cells have become attractive tools for bioengineers, but some scientists haven’t given up on their regenerative potential. A research team at Harvard Univ. recently found that transplanting mesenchymal stem cells along with blood vessel-forming cells naturally found in circulation improves results. This co-transplantation keeps the mesenchymal stem cells alive longer in mice after engraftment, up to weeks from just hours.
Researchers have developed new methods to trace the life history of individual cells back to their origins in the fertilized egg. By looking at the copy of the human genome present in healthy cells, and by looking at the numbers and types of mutations in a cell's DNA, biologists in the U.K. have been able to build a picture of each cell's development from the early embryo on its journey to become part of an adult organ.
New research suggests that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the nature, physiology and location of stem cells. Specifically, the report suggests that embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the only source from which all three germ layers in the human body (nerves, liver or heart and blood vessels) can develop.
For the first time, the genome of the electric eel has been sequenced. This discovery has revealed the secret of how fishes with electric organs have evolved six times in the history of life to produce electricity outside of their bodies. This research has shed light on the genetic blueprint used to evolve these complex, novel organs.
For the first time, neuroscientists have shown they can control muscle movement by applying optogenetics, a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical impulses with light, to the spinal cords of animals that are awake and alert. Previously, scientists have used electrical stimulation or pharmacological intervention to control neurons’ activity, but these approaches were not precise enough.
Patients with persistent ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, process emotions differently in the brain from those with normal hearing, researchers report in Brain Research. Tinnitus afflicts 50 million people in the U.S., and causes those with the condition to hear noises that aren’t really there. These phantom sounds are not speech, but rather whooshing noises, train whistles, cricket noises or whines.
Genomic sequencing is supposed to reveal the entire genetic makeup of an organism. The technology can be used to analyze a disease-causing bacterium to determine how much harm it is capable of causing. But new research at Rockefeller Univ. suggests that current sequencing protocols overlook crucial bits of information: isolated pieces of DNA floating outside the bacterial chromosome, the core of a cell’s genetic material.
Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.
Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.
A team of researchers in California has zeroed in on the important process of “attenuation,” the way cells guard against potentially harmful overreactions to the external cues that enable them to adapt to prevailing conditions. This bimolecular mutually assured destruction (MAD) mechanism of signaling attenuation broadens our understanding of the range of mechanisms nature has evolved to enact this critical function.
Measurements taken at the molecular scale have, for the first time, confirmed a key property that could improve our knowledge of how the heart and lungs function. Univ. of Washington researchers have shown that a favorable electrical property is present in a type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract, such as the lungs, heart and arteries.
The molecular building blocks that make up DNA absorb ultraviolet light so strongly that sunlight should deactivate them, yet it does not. Now, scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made detailed observations of a “relaxation response” that protects these molecules, and the genetic information they encode, from UV damage.
Ribosomes are responsible for the production of the wide variety of proteins that include enzymes. But until now researchers had not uncovered all of the details of how the proteins that are used to construct ribosomes are themselves produced. Biologists in California now say they have found the “missing link” in the chemical system that allows ribosomal proteins to be synthesized.
HIV-1, the virus responsible for most cases of AIDS, is a very selective virus. It doesn’t readily infect species other than its usual hosts. While this would qualify as good news for most mammals, for humans this fact has made the search for effective treatments and vaccines for AIDS that much more difficult; without an accurate animal model of the disease, researchers have had few options for clinical studies of the virus.
Think of the human body as an intricate machine whose working parts are proteins: molecules that change shape to enable our organs and tissues to perform tasks such as breathing, eating or thinking. Of the millions of proteins, 500 in the kinase family are particularly important to drug discovery. Kinases are messengers: They deliver signals that regulate and orchestrate the actions of other proteins.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique to control populations of the Australian sheep blowfly—a major livestock pest in Australia and New Zealand—by making female flies dependent upon a common antibiotic to survive.
Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers combined, and the main reason is poor detection methods. A new device developed by a team of Israeli, American and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test is embedded with a "NaNose" nanotech chip to literally "sniff out" cancer tumors.
Sweaty hands can reduce the effectiveness of bacteria-fighting brass objects in hospitals and schools after just an hour of coming into contact with them, according to scientists at the Univ. of Leicester. While copper found in everyday brass items has an antimicrobial effect on bacteria the team has discovered that peoples’ sweat can produce sufficient corrosion to adversely affect its use to kill a range of microorganisms.
Researchers in Australia have discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis. The function in the algae of this quantum effect, known as coherence, remains a mystery, but it is thought it could help them harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently.
Nanoengineers at UC San Diego have developed a nanoshell to protect foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells as part of chemotherapy. Enzymes are naturally smart machines that are responsible for many complex functions and chemical reactions in biology. However, despite their huge potential, their use in medicine has been limited by the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders.
How does a stem cell decide what path to take? In a way, it’s up to the wisdom of the crowd. The DNA in a pluripotent stem cell is bombarded with waves of proteins whose ebb and flow nudge the cell toward becoming blood, bone, skin or organs. A new theory by scientists at Rice Univ. shows the cell’s journey is neither a simple step-by-step process nor all random.
After a large stroke, motor skills barely improve, even with rehabilitation. An experiment conducted on rats demonstrates that a course of therapy combining the stimulation of nerve fiber growth with drugs and motor training can be successful. The key, however, is the correct sequence: Paralyzed animals only make an almost complete recovery if the training is delayed until after the growth promoting drugs have been administered.
Researchers have determined that a copper compound known for decades may form the basis for a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a new study, scientists showed in laboratory animal tests that oral intake of this compound significantly extended the lifespan and improved the locomotor function of transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this debilitating and terminal disease.