We tend to be creatures of habit. In fact, the human brain has a learning system devoted to guiding us through routine, or habitual, behaviors. At the same time, the brain has a separate goal-directed system for the actions we undertake only after careful consideration of the consequences. We switch between the two systems as needed. But how does the brain know which system to give control to at any given moment? Enter The Arbitrator.
Nearly 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer experience skeletal metastasis, in which cancer cells migrate from a primary tumor into bone. While scientists are attempting to better understand metastasis in general, not much is known about how and why certain cancers spread to specific organs. Now researchers have developed a 3-D microfluidic platform that mimics the spread of breast cancer cells into a bone-like environment.
Our cells produce thousands of proteins, but more than one-third of these proteins can fulfill their function only after migrating to the outside of the cell. While it is known that protein migration occurs with the help of various “nanomotors” that push proteins out of the cell, little is known about their precise mechanical functioning. New research reveals the inner workings of one such nanomotor, called SecA, with new clarity.
In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) building on the outskirts of Atlanta, large metal vats are filled with a frozen array of specimens such as blood and DNA, many of them irreplaceable. Battelle has been awarded a five-year, $12.6 million contract to help manage this important biological repository, which contains 12 million biological samples.
Maybe you’ve seen the movies or played with toy Transformers, those shape-shifting machines that morph in response to whatever challenge they face. It turns out that DNA-repair machines in your cells use a similar approach to fight cancer and other diseases, according to research led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered a genetic function that helps one of the most important “tumor suppressor” genes to do its job and prevent cancer. Finding ways to maintain or increase the effectiveness of this gene—called Grp1-associated scaffold protein, or Grasp—could offer an important new avenue for human cancer therapies, scientists said.
A new microscopy method could enable scientists to generate snapshots of dozens of different biomolecules at once in a single human cell, a team from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported in Nature Methods. Such images could shed light on complex cellular pathways and potentially lead to new ways to diagnose disease, track its prognosis or monitor the effectiveness of therapies at a cell level.
Chances are you won’t know you’ve got a staph infection until the test results come in, days after the symptoms first appear. But what if your physician could identify the infection much more quickly and without having to take a biopsy and ship it off for analysis? Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa may have found a way.
A fundamental axiom of biology used to be that cell fate is a one-way street—once a cell commits to becoming muscle, skin or blood it always remains muscle, skin or blood cell. That belief was upended in the past decade when a Japanese scientist introduced four simple factors into skin cells and returned them to an embryonic-like state, capable of becoming of almost any cell type in the body.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 18% of American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Previous studies of anxiety in the brain have focused on the amygdala, an area known to play a role in fear. But a team of researchers had a hunch that understanding a different brain area, the lateral septum (LS), could provide more clues into how the brain processes anxiety.
A new report says childhood cancer cases continue to increase, but death rates have fallen by half. The American Cancer Society report—released Friday—is being called one of the most comprehensive looks at the types of cancer that most commonly affect children and adolescents.
The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.
Cancer drugs that recruit antibodies from the body’s own immune system to help kill tumors have shown much promise in treating several types of cancer. However, after initial success, the tumors often return. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals a way to combat these recurrent tumors with a drug that makes them more vulnerable to the antibody treatment.
Univ. of Oregon biologists say they have opened the window on the natural process of bone regeneration in zebra fish, and that the insights they gained could be used to advance therapies for bone fractures and disease. Their work shows that two molecular pathways work in concert to allow adult zebra fish to perfectly replace bones lost upon fin amputation.
For the first time ever, a team has sequenced the internal bacterial makeup of the three major life stages of a butterfly species, a project that showed some surprising events occur during metamorphosis. The results showed the internal bacterial diversity of the butterfly was halved when it morphed from the caterpillar to the chrysalis, or pupal stage, then doubled after the pupae turned into active adult butterflies.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.
A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new approach applied to analyzing whole-genome sequencing data from 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20% of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.
A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.
Researchers have discovered a potential treatment for a viral infection that causes potentially fatal brain swelling and paralysis in children. The findings also point to possible treatments for related viruses including those that cause common cold symptoms. The virus, called enterovirus 71 (EV71), causes yearly outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease in Southeast Asian countries, including China and Malaysia.
Scientists in Japan have developed a new, surprisingly simple method for creating stem cell. In a pair of reports, the researchers show that ordinary somatic cells from newborn mice can be stripped of their differentiation memory, reverting to a state of pluripotency resembling embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. All that’s needed is a dose of sublethal stress.
Forget being sneezed on: Government scientists are deliberately giving dozens of volunteers the flu by squirting the live virus straight up their noses. It may sound bizarre, but the rare type of research is a step in the quest for better flu vaccines. It turns out that how the body fends off influenza remains something of a mystery.
People infected with HIV can stave off the symptoms of AIDS thanks to drug cocktails that mainly target three enzymes produced by the virus, but resistant strains pop up periodically. Researchers have now focused on a fourth protein, Nef, that hijacks host proteins and is essential to HIV’s lethality. By blocking the part of a key host protein to which Nef binds, it may be possible to slow or stop HIV.
One of every 10 clinical trials for adults with cancer ends prematurely because researchers can't get enough people to test new treatments, scientists report. The surprisingly high rate reveals not just the scope and cost of wasted opportunities that deprive patients of potential advances, but also the extent of barriers such as money, logistics and even the mistaken fear that people won't get the best care if they join these experiments.
More than 2,800 commercially available applications are now based on nanoparticles, but this influx of nanotechnology is not without risks, say researchers at Missouri Univ. of Science and Technology. They have been systematically studying the effects of transition metal oxide nanoparticles on human lung cells and have found that the nanoparticles’ toxicity to the cells increased as they moved right on the periodic table.
An international team of scientists has discovered that two of the world’s most devastating pandemics, the plague of Justinian and the Black Death, each responsible for killing as many as half the people in Europe, were caused by distinct strains of the same pathogen. Because these plagues were hundreds of years apart, the findings suggest a new strain of bubonic plague could emerge again in humans in the future.