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Biologists identify brain tumor weakness

April 9, 2015 7:31 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Biologists have discovered a vulnerability of brain cancer cells that could be exploited to develop more-effective drugs against brain tumors. The study found that a subset of glioblastoma tumor cells is dependent on a particular enzyme that breaks down the amino acid glycine. Without this enzyme, toxic metabolic byproducts build up inside the tumor cells, and they die.

Complex organic molecules discovered in infant star system: hints that prebiotic chemistry is universal

April 8, 2015 2:21 pm | by National Radio Astronomy Observatory | News | Comments

For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting once again that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe.

Food for thought: Master protein enhances learning and memory

April 8, 2015 8:54 am | by The Salk Institute | News | Comments

Just as some people seem built to run marathons and have an easier time going for miles without tiring, others are born with a knack for memorizing things, from times tables to trivia facts. These two skills are not so different as it turns out. Salk scientists and collaborators have discovered that physical and mental activities rely on a single metabolic protein that controls the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body.

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Possible new RNA engineering tool

April 8, 2015 7:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A great deal of public attention in the past couple of years has been showered on complexes of bacterial proteins known as “CRISPR-Cas” for their potential use as a tool for editing DNA. Now, researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are reporting that CRISPR-Cas complexes could also serve as an engineering tool for RNA, the molecule that translates DNA’s genetic instructions into the production of proteins.

Spotting a molecular warhead for disease in the human gut

April 7, 2015 12:20 pm | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. scientists are using new chemical tools to identify and understand molecules in the human gut that alter DNA and regulate inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancers. In a recent article, researchers describe the chemical structures of 32 such molecules from the bacterial colibactin pathway, found in select strains of E. coli in the gut.

Cells exercise suboptimal strategy to survive

April 6, 2015 10:42 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

There are few times in life when one should aim for suboptimal performance, but new research at Rice Univ. suggests scientists who study metabolism and its role in evolution should look for signs of just that. A study published in BMC Systems Biology details a computational method called corsoFBA.

Calico licenses technology from acclaimed UCSF laboratory

April 2, 2015 3:27 pm | by USCF | News | Comments

Calico, a company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase understanding of the biology that controls human lifespan, and UC San Francisco have partnered on an innovative project to develop potential therapies for cognitive decline.

“Open” stem cell chromosomes reveal new possibilities for diabetes

April 2, 2015 12:08 pm | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Stem cells hold great promise for treating a number of diseases, in part because they have the unique ability to differentiate, specializing into any one of the hundreds of cell types that comprise the human body. Harnessing this potential, though, is difficult.

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Protein determines life or death fate of stressed cells

April 2, 2015 10:30 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers discovered a new protein involved in the process that determines the fate of cells under stress and whether they fight to survive or sacrifice themselves for the greater good. A protein named HYPE orchestrates a response to misfolded proteins within the cell, mistakes which increase when a cell is under stress from disease or injury.

How a rare form a liver cancer arises

April 2, 2015 10:20 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the 1970s, epidemiologists found that workers in factories using vinyl chloride had unusually high rates of a rare form of liver cancer called angiosarcoma. Biologists later identified a mutation that appears to be associated with this cancer, which originates in cells of the blood vessels that feed the liver.

Nanoparticles provide novel way to apply drugs to dental plaque

April 1, 2015 4:26 pm | by Peter Iglinski, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

Therapeutic agents intended to reduce dental plaque and prevent tooth decay are often removed by saliva and the act of swallowing before they can take effect. But a team of researchers has developed a way to keep the drugs from being washed away. Dental plaque is made up of bacteria enmeshed in a sticky matrix of polymers, a polymeric matrix, that is firmly attached to teeth.

Diagnosis by keyboard

April 1, 2015 2:05 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Analyzing people’s keystrokes as they type on a computer keyboard can reveal a great deal of information about the state of their motor function, according to a new study. In the study, the researchers found that their algorithm for analyzing keystrokes could distinguish between typing done in the middle of the night, when sleep deprivation impairs motor skills, and typing performed when fully rested.

Scientists pinpoint protein that affects heart transplant survival

April 1, 2015 12:54 pm | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The protein haptoglobin boosts inflammation in transplanted hearts, reducing their survival, according to a study led by Yale Univ. researchers. The finding may help identify new anti-inflammatory therapies to enhance organ transplant survival.

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Mighty microexons take center stage in shaping of the brain

April 1, 2015 8:52 am | by Liam Mitchell, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Complex brain disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia, still puzzle scientists because their causes lie hidden in early events of brain development, which are still poorly understood. This is about to change thanks to research by Univ. of Toronto Profs. Ben Blencowe and Sabine Cordes, who have developed a powerful model that will allow researchers to better understand the physiology behind many disorders.

Video gamers may learn visual tasks more quickly

April 1, 2015 8:44 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Many studies show that video gamers perform better than non-gamers on certain visual tasks, like managing distractors and identifying targets, but a small new Brown Univ. study provides gamers with some cognitive bonus points. The study results suggest that gaming not only improves their visual skill but also may improve their learning ability for those skills.

Skin tough

April 1, 2015 7:31 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When weighing the pluses and minuses of your skin add this to the plus column: Your skin, like that of all vertebrates, is remarkably resistant to tearing. Now, a collaboration of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, San Diego, has shown why.

Biology in a twist

March 31, 2015 12:21 pm | by Amal Naquiah, National Univ. of Signapore | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Univ. of Singapore have discovered that the inherent handedness of molecular structures directs the behavior of individual cells and confers them the ability to sense the difference between left and right. This is a significant step forward in the understanding of cellular biology.

Experimental cancer drug restores memory in mouse model of Alzheimer’s

March 31, 2015 11:12 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Memory and as well as connections between brain cells were restored in mice with a model of Alzheimer’s given an experimental cancer drug, Yale School of Medicine researchers reported in the Annals of Neurology. The drug, AZD05030, developed by Astra Zeneca proved disappointing in treating solid tumors but appears to block damage triggered during the formation of amyloid-beta plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

A “Wikipedia” for neurons

March 31, 2015 8:43 am | by Jocelyn Duffy, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Videos | Comments

The decades worth of data that has been collected about the billions of neurons in the brain is astounding. To help scientists make sense of this “brain big data,” researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. have used data mining to create www.neuroelectro.org, a publicly available Website that acts like Wikipedia, indexing physiological information about neurons.

Scientists reveal mechanism of natural product with powerful antimicrobial action

March 31, 2015 8:04 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have uncovered the unique mechanism of a powerful natural product with wide-ranging antifungal, antibacterial antimalaria and anticancer effects. The new study sheds light on the natural small molecule known as borrelidin.

Researchers develop computational model to simulate bacterial behavior

March 30, 2015 8:25 am | by Univ. of Notre Dame | News | Comments

Univ. of Notre Dame applied mathematician Mark Alber and environmental biotechnologist Robert Nerenberg have developed a new computational model that effectively simulates the mechanical behavior of biofilms. Their model may lead to new strategies for studying a range of issues from blood clots to waste treatment systems.

Disrupted biological clock linked to Alzheimer’s disease

March 27, 2015 11:58 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

New research has identified some of the processes by which molecules associated with neurological diseases can disrupt the biological clock, interfere with sleep and activity patterns and set the stage for a spiral of health concerns that can include a decreased lifespan and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers master gene editing technique in mosquito that transmits deadly diseases

March 27, 2015 11:09 am | by Zach Veilleux, Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Traditionally, to understand how a gene functions, a scientist would breed an organism that lacks that gene, “knocking it out”, then ask how the organism has changed. Are its senses affected? Its behavior? Can it even survive? Thanks to the recent advance of gene editing technology, this gold standard genetic experiment has become much more accessible in a wide variety of organisms.

HIV can lodge quickly in brain after infection

March 27, 2015 10:29 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV can establish itself in the brain as soon as four months after initial infection; a finding that dampens hopes of an impending cure for a disease that afflicts more than 35 million people. Within two years of infection, a genetically distinct version of HIV replicates in the brains of as many as one in four patients.

Big data allows computer engineers to find genetic clues in humans

March 27, 2015 8:26 am | by Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Big data: It's a term we read and hear about often, but is hard to grasp. Computer scientists at Washington Univ. in St. Louis tackled some big data about an important protein and discovered its connection in human history as well as clues about its role in complex neurological diseases.

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