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Sneaky bacteria change key protein’s shape to escape detection

May 28, 2014 10:23 am | News | Comments

Every once in a while in the U.S., bacterial meningitis seems to crop up out of nowhere, claiming a young life. Part of the disease’s danger is the ability of the bacteria to evade the body’s immune system, but scientists are now figuring out how the pathogen hides in plain sight. Their findings, which could help defeat these bacteria and others like it, appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Cancer, bioelectrical signals and the microbiome connected

May 28, 2014 8:37 am | by Kim Thurler, Tufts Univ. | News | Comments

Developmental biologists at Tufts Univ., using a tadpole model, have shown that bioelectrical signals from distant cells control the incidence of tumors arising from cancer-causing genes and that this process is impacted by levels of a common fatty acid produced by bacteria found in the tadpole and also in humans. 

HIV can cut and paste in the human genome

May 28, 2014 8:31 am | by Kirsten Olesen, Aarhus University | News | Comments

A new technology developed in Denmark uses the HIV virus as a tool in the fight against hereditary diseases and, in the long term, against HIV infection as well. The technology repairs the genome in a new and safer manner by using the virus as nanoparticles to manage the “cut and paste” approach to modifying the genome.

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“Nanodaisies” deliver drug cocktail to cancer cells

May 28, 2014 8:16 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed daisy-shaped, nanoscale structures that are made predominantly of anticancer drugs and are capable of introducing a “cocktail” of multiple drugs into cancer cells. The researchers are all part the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kiwi DNA link spurs rethink of flightless birds

May 27, 2014 9:23 am | by Nick Perry, Associated Press | News | Comments

Research linking New Zealand's diminutive kiwi with a giant extinct bird from Africa is prompting scientists to rethink how flightless birds evolved. Instead, it's more likely their chicken-size, flight-capable ancestors enjoyed a window of evolutionary ascendancy about 60 million years ago, after dinosaurs died out and before mammals grew big. The study contradicts earlier theories about the evolution of flightless birds.

Tiny muscles help bats fine-tune flight

May 27, 2014 8:20 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A new study of bats reveals a capability within their wondrous wings that may help them fine-tune their flight. Bats employ a network of nearly hair-thin muscles embedded in the membrane of their inherently floppy wing skin to adjust the wings’ stiffness and curvature while they fly, Brown Univ. researchers report.

DNA nanotechnology places enzyme catalysis within an arm’s length

May 27, 2014 8:06 am | by Joe Caspermeyer, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

Using molecules of DNA like an architectural scaffold, Arizona State Univ. scientists, in collaboration with colleagues at the Univ. of Michigan, have developed a 3-D artificial enzyme cascade that mimics an important biochemical pathway that could prove important for future biomedical and energy applications.

Relaxation helps pack DNA into a virus

May 27, 2014 7:57 am | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Taking a moment to pause and relax can help if you find yourself in a tight spot. This strategy can work for molecules as well as people, it turns out. Researchers at the Univ. of California, San Diego have found that DNA packs more easily into the tight confines of a virus when given a chance to relax.

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Doctors design mini dialysis machine for babies

May 23, 2014 12:41 pm | by Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Doctors in Italy have designed a miniature dialysis machine for babies, used for the first time last year to save a newborn girl. Usually, doctors adapt standard dialysis machines for babies, but that can be risky since the devices can't always be accurately tweaked. About 1 to 2% of hospitalized infants have kidney problems that may require dialysis, which cleans toxins from the blood when the kidneys aren't working.

Chip produces, detects specialized gas for biomedical analysis

May 23, 2014 8:27 am | News | Comments

A chip-scale device that both produces and detects a specialized gas used in biomedical analysis and medical imaging has been built and demonstrated at NIST. Described in Nature Communications, the new microfluidic chip produces polarized (or magnetized) xenon gas and then detects even the faintest magnetic signals from the gas.

Researchers discover immune system’s rules of engagement

May 22, 2014 2:06 pm | News | Comments

A new study reveals how T cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers, respond to an enormous number of potential health threats. X-ray studies at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, combined with Stanford Univ. biological studies and computational analysis, revealed remarkable similarities in the structure of binding sites which allow a given T cell to recognize many different invaders that provoke an immune response.

Study finds crowding has big effects on biomolecules

May 22, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Crowding has notoriously negative effects at large size scales, blamed for everything from human disease and depression to community resource shortages. But relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new JILA study shows that a crowded environment has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules.

Capillary device significantly improves manufacture of quality liposomes

May 22, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

Widespread application of manufactured liposomes as artificial drug carriers has been hindered by factors such as inconsistency in size, structural instability, and high production costs. Researchers have designed a new liposome production system from bundled capillary tubes. It costs less than a $1 to make, requires no special fabrication technology, and consistently yields large quantities of uniform and sturdy vesicles.

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Not just for the heart, red wine shows promise as cavity fighter

May 22, 2014 8:17 am | News | Comments

For anyone searching for another reason to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, here’s a good one: A new study has found that red wine, as well as grape seed extract, could potentially help prevent cavities. They say that their report, which appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could lead to the development of natural products that ward off dental diseases with fewer side effects.

Researchers sequence genome of primitive termite

May 21, 2014 8:23 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. entomologists are part of a research team that has for the first time sequenced the genome of a member of the termite order, the dampwood termite (Zootermopsis nevadensis). The findings on the genetic blueprint of the dampwood termite, one of the world’s most primitive social insects, highlight key differences and similarities with other social insects and provide insight into how social insects evolved.

Cognitive test can differentiate between Alzheimer’s and normal aging

May 21, 2014 8:06 am | by Chelsey Coombs, Life Sciences Intern, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new cognitive test that can better determine whether memory impairments are due to very mild Alzheimer’s disease or the normal aging process. Previous research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease often have impairments in hippocampal function. So the team designed a task that tested participants’ relational memory abilities.

Britain launches $17 million science prize

May 20, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Britain is offering 10 million pounds (almost $17 million) to whoever can solve one of humanity's biggest scientific challenges. What’s the challenge? Organizers said Monday the public would vote on which of six challenges the prize should tackle, ranging from reversal of paralysis to making air travel environmentally friendly.

How beach microbes responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

May 20, 2014 8:03 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In June, 2010, two months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Regina Lamendella collected samples along a hard-hit beach near Grand Isle, Louisiana. She was part of a team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers that wanted to know how the microbes along the shoreline were responding to the spill.

Chemists discover structure of cancer drug candidate

May 20, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute have determined the correct structure of a highly promising anticancer compound approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials in cancer patients. The new report, published in Angewandte Chemie, focuses on a compound called TIC10.

Research leads to new understanding of how cells grow, shrink

May 19, 2014 10:44 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

For a century biologists have thought they understood how the gooey growth that occurs inside cells causes their protective outer walls to expand. Now, Stanford Univ. researchers have captured the visual evidence to prove the prevailing wisdom wrong. The finding may lead to new strategies for fighting bacterial diseases.

Illuminating neuron activity in 3-D

May 19, 2014 10:34 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Vienna have created an imaging system that reveals neural activity throughout the brains of living animals. This technique, the first that can generate 3-D movies of entire brains at the millisecond timescale, could help scientists discover how neuronal networks process sensory information and generate behavior.

Watching HIV bud from cells

May 19, 2014 8:09 am | by Lee J. Siegel, Science News Specialist, Univ. of Utah | Videos | Comments

Univ. of Utah researchers devised a way to watch newly forming AIDS virus particles emerging or “budding” from infected human cells without interfering with the process. The method shows a protein named ALIX gets involved during the final stages of virus replication, not earlier, as was believed previously.

Genetic study helps resolve speculation about first people in the Americas

May 19, 2014 7:45 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A new study could help resolve a longstanding debate about the origins of the first people to inhabit the Americas, researchers report in Science. The study relies on genetic information extracted from the tooth of an adolescent girl who fell into a sinkhole in the Yucatan 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.

Interactions may matter most for longevity

May 16, 2014 9:42 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

If studying a single gene or a diet that might extend longevity is like searching for a fountain of youth, then a new study calls for looking at something more like the whole watershed. Brown Univ. biologists who experimentally throttled three such factors in fruit flies found that lifespan depended more on interactions among the factors than on the factors themselves.

Fighting Ebola virus disease: Transformer protein provides new insights

May 16, 2014 8:25 am | by Manuel Gnida, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study reveals that a protein of the Ebola virus can transform into three distinct shapes, each with a separate function that is critical to the virus’s survival. Each shape offers a potential target for developing drugs against Ebola virus disease, a hemorrhagic fever that kills up to nine out of 10 infected patients in outbreaks such as the current one in West Africa.

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