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Biochemists build largest synthetic molecular “cage” ever

November 19, 2014 10:26 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles biochemists have created the largest-ever protein that self-assembles into a molecular “cage.” The research could lead to synthetic vaccines that protect people from the flu, HIV and other diseases. At a size hundreds of times smaller than a human cell, it also could lead to new methods of delivering pharmaceuticals inside of cells, or to the creation of new nanoscale materials.

X-ray laser brings key cell structures into focus

November 19, 2014 9:07 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Scientists have made high-resolution x-ray laser images of an intact cellular structure much faster and more efficiently than ever possible before. The results are an important step toward atomic-scale imaging of intact biological particles, including viruses and bacteria. The technique was demonstrated at the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Computer model sets new precedent in drug discovery

November 19, 2014 8:52 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

A major challenge faced by the pharmaceutical industry has been how to rationally design and select protein molecules to create effective biologic drug therapies while reducing unintended side effects—a challenge that has largely been addressed through costly guess–and–check experiments. Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. offer a new approach.

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Hormone points to potential treatment for metabolic disorders

November 19, 2014 8:13 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered how a previously unknown hormone serves as a messenger from fat cells to the liver and are investigating the potential of developing a new treatment for metabolic disorders. Jiandie Lin of the Life Sciences Institute described how in mice the hormone, NRG4, is secreted by so-called brown fat cells and communicates with the liver to regulate the conversion of sugar into fat.

Paramecia need Newton for navigation

November 19, 2014 7:36 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | Videos | Comments

For such humble creatures, single-celled paramecia have remarkable sensory systems. Give them a sharp jab on the nose, they back up and swim away. Jab them in the behind, they speed up their swimming to escape. But according to new research, when paramecia encounter flat surfaces, they’re at the mercy of the laws of physics.

Study will test survivors' blood to treat Ebola

November 18, 2014 11:00 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A coalition of companies and aid groups announced plans Tuesday to test experimental drugs and collect blood plasma from Ebola survivors to treat new victims of the disease in West Africa. Plasma from survivors contains antibodies, substances the immune system makes to fight the virus.

Scientists reveal weak spots in Ebola’s defenses

November 18, 2014 9:27 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have identified weak spots on the surface of Ebola virus that are targeted by the antibodies in ZMapp, the experimental drug cocktail administered to several patients during the recent Ebola outbreak. The study provides a revealing 3-D picture of how the ZMapp antibodies bind to Ebola virus.

Chemical disguise transforms RNAi drug delivery

November 18, 2014 7:57 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Small pieces of synthetic RNA trigger a RNA interference (RNAi) response that holds great therapeutic potential to treat a number of diseases, especially cancer and pandemic viruses. The problem is delivery: It’s extremely difficult to get RNAi drugs inside the cells in which they are needed.

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Advance in cryopreservation could change management of world blood supplies

November 17, 2014 3:58 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have identified a method to rapidly prepare frozen red blood cells for transfusions, which may offer an important new way to manage the world’s blood supply. It’s already possible to cryopreserve human red blood cells in the presence of 40% glycerol, but is rarely done because of the time-consuming process to thaw and remove the glycerol from the blood.

Artificial muscle can “remember” movements

November 17, 2014 11:07 am | by Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed artificial muscles which can learn and recall specific movements, the first time that motion control and memory have been combined in a synthetic material. The muscles, made from smooth plastic, could eventually be used in a applications where mimicking the movement of natural muscle would be an advantage, such as robotics, aerospace, exoskeletons and biomedical applications.

Chemical in coffee may help prevent obesity-related disease

November 17, 2014 10:33 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity. In a recently published paper published, scientists found that chlorogenic acid, or CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice who were fed a high-fat diet.

Study suggests genetic link for male homosexuality

November 17, 2014 10:01 am | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A large study of gay brothers adds to evidence that genes influence men's chances of being homosexual, but the results aren't strong enough to prove it. Some scientists believe several genes might affect sexual orientation. Researchers who led the new study of nearly 800 gay brothers say their results bolster previous evidence pointing to genes on the X chromosome.

Tiny needles offer potential new treatment for two major eye diseases

November 13, 2014 4:43 pm | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Needles almost too small to be seen with the unaided eye could be the basis for new treatment options for two of the world’s leading eye diseases: glaucoma and corneal neovascularization. The microneedles, ranging in length from 400 to 700 microns, could provide a new way to deliver drugs to specific areas within the eye relevant to these diseases.

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Bacteria become genomic tape recorders

November 13, 2014 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a long-term storage device for memory. They envision that this stable, erasable and easy-to-retrieve memory will be well suited for applications such as sensors for environmental and medical monitoring.

Bio-inspired bleeding control

November 13, 2014 4:12 pm | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Stanching the free flow of blood from an injury remains a holy grail of clinical medicine. Controlling blood flow is a primary concern and first line of defense for patients and medical staff in many situations, from traumatic injury to illness to surgery. If control is not established within the first few minutes of a hemorrhage, further treatment and healing are impossible.

Evolution software looks beyond the branches

November 12, 2014 10:47 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The tree has been an effective model of evolution for 150 years, but a Rice Univ. computer scientist believes it’s far too simple to illustrate the breadth of current knowledge. Rice researcher Luay Nakhleh and his group have developed PhyloNet, an open source software package that accounts for horizontal as well as vertical inheritance of genetic material among genomes.

Some plants regenerate by duplicating their DNA

November 12, 2014 10:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Microtubes create cozy space for neurons to grow

November 11, 2014 2:25 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.

Researchers take snapshots of potential “kill switch” for cancer

November 11, 2014 8:35 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

November 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules.

Synthetic biology for space exploration

November 10, 2014 9:27 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.

How human cells become immortal

November 10, 2014 8:35 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Every day, some of your cells stop dividing, and that’s a good thing. Cells that proliferate indefinitely are immortal, an essential early step in the development of most malignant tumors. Despite its importance in cancer, the process of cell immortalization is poorly understood. That’s because scientists have lacked a good way to study immortalization in human cells as it occurs during cancer progression.

First peek at how neurons multitask

November 10, 2014 8:01 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.

Life in Earth’s primordial sea was starved for sulfate

November 7, 2014 3:18 pm | by Univ. of British Columbia | News | Comments

The Earth’s ancient oceans held much lower concentrations of sulfate— a key biological nutrient— than previously recognized, according to new research.                             

Adding 'spice' to curcumin’s health-promoting benefits

November 6, 2014 2:55 pm | by Emily Caldwell, The Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

The health benefits of over-the-counter curcumin supplements might not get past your gut, but new research shows that a modified formulation of the spice releases its anti-inflammatory goodness throughout the body.           

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