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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.

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.

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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.

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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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Study: 2% of Americans have new hips, knees

March 11, 2014 1:19 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

It's not just grandma with a new hip and your uncle with a new knee. More than two of every 100 Americans now have an artificial joint, doctors are reporting. Among those over 50, it's even more common: 5% have replaced a knee and more than 2%, a hip.

Doctors often uncertain in ordering, interpreting lab tests

March 10, 2014 12:43 pm | by Sharon Parmet, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | News | Comments

Over the past 20 years, the number of laboratory tests available to primary care physicians has doubled, to more than 3,500 tests, and physicians are challenged by the quantity of tests available. A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests they often face uncertainty in ordering and interpreting clinical laboratory tests, and would welcome better electronic clinical decision support tools.

Trends in Genomics Technology

March 10, 2014 8:54 am | by Barrett Bready and John Thompson, Nabsys | Articles | Comments

Ever since the study of individual genes and RNAs was first known to be important, there has been a drive to get as detailed and complete genomic information as possible. Early technologies like the hybridization-based Southern and Northern blotting methods were tremendous advances, but allowed only a handful of genomic targets to be studied at a time.

Synthetic biologists shine light on genetic circuit analysis

March 10, 2014 7:56 am | Videos | Comments

In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.

Research on 3-D scaffolds sets new bar in lung regeneration

March 9, 2014 11:44 pm | by Jennifer Nachbur, Univ. of Vermont | News | Comments

In end-stage lung disease, transplantation is sometimes the only viable therapeutic option, but organ availability is limited and rejection presents an additional challenge. New methods and techniques in the field of tissue regeneration hold promise for this population, which includes an estimated 12.7 million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Chemists discover new class of antibiotics

March 9, 2014 11:43 pm | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Notre Dame researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug-resistant bacteria. Called oxadiazoles, the new class was discovered through in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection.  

Liver metabolism study could help patients awaiting transplants

March 7, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

In a new study that could help doctors extend the lives of patients awaiting liver transplants, a Rice Univ.-led team of researchers examined the metabolic breakdown that takes place in liver cells during late-stage cirrhosis and found clues that suggest new treatments to delay liver failure.

Smartphones become “eye-phones” with new low-cost opthalmologic devices

March 7, 2014 1:22 pm | by Rosanne Spector, Stanford Univ. School of Medicine | News | Comments

Researchers at the Stanford Univ. School of Medicine have developed two inexpensive adapters that enable a smartphone to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye. The adapters make it easy for anyone with minimal training to take a picture of the eye and share it securely with other health practitioners or store it in the patient’s electronic record.

A new way to profile immune cells in blood

March 7, 2014 8:42 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When a person becomes sick or is exposed to an unwelcome substance, the body mobilizes specific proportions of different immune cells in the blood. Methods of discovering and detecting those profiles are therefore useful both clinically and in research. In a new Genome Biology paper, a team of scientists describes a new and uniquely advantageous way to detect them.

Pigment or bacteria? Researchers re-examine the idea of “color” in fossil feathers

March 7, 2014 8:33 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Paleontologists studying fossilized feathers have proposed that the shapes of certain microscopic structures inside the feathers can tell us the color of ancient birds. But new research from North Carolina State Univ. demonstrates that it is not yet possible to tell if these structures, thought to be melanosomes, are what they seem, or if they are merely the remnants of ancient bacteria.

Storing and Tracking Samples: Preserving Contents and Managing Sample Data

March 6, 2014 11:42 am | by Kiara Biagioni, Storage Tracking Product Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, Mass. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Samples are precious resources and integral to the research process. The information derived from them is dependent on their quality, integrity and consistency. And, many samples represent a scientist’s investment in and trust of the biomedical research process. Yet, it is not unusual for samples to go missing, to find that their labels have fallen off or that they have become unusable.

Computational tool offers new insight into key biological processes

March 6, 2014 10:45 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a computational tool designed to guide future research on biochemical pathways by identifying which components in a biological system are related to specific biochemical processes, including those processes responsible for gene expression, cell signaling, stress response and metabolism.

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