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Microbial detection array detects plague in ancient human remains

March 6, 2014 10:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists who study past pandemics, such as the 14th-century Black Death that devastated much of Europe, might soon be turning to an innovative biological detection technology for some extra help. The apparent first use of this technology, known as a microarray, for studying pathogens from ancient DNA, was reported by a team of scientists in Scientific Reports.

Shrinking gel steers tooth tissue formation

March 6, 2014 9:02 am | by Dan Ferber, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

A bit of pressure from a new shrinking, sponge-like gel is all it takes to turn transplanted unspecialized cells into cells that lay down minerals and begin to form teeth. The bioinspired gel material could one day help repair or replace damaged organs, such as teeth and bone, and possibly other organs as well.

Pumping iron: A hydrogel actuator with mussel tone

March 6, 2014 8:48 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Protein from a small, tasty mollusk inspired Michigan Technological Univ.’s Bruce P. Lee to invent a new type of hydrogel actuator. Hydrogels are soft networks of polymers with high water content, like jello. Because of their soft, gentle texture, they have the potential to interact safely with living tissues and have applications in a number of medical areas, including tissue engineering.

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Brain circuits multitask to detect, discriminate the outside world

March 6, 2014 8:40 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Imagine driving on a dark road. In the distance you see a single light. As the light approaches it splits into two headlights. That’s a car, not a motorcycle, your brain tells you. A new study found that neural circuits in the brain rapidly multitask between detecting and discriminating sensory input, such as headlights in the distance.

Cell’s skeletons get a closer look

March 6, 2014 8:29 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have developed a theoretical approach to analyze the process by which protein building blocks form the biopolymer skeletons of living cells. The cytoskeleton, made of fibers and microtubules, gives a cell its shape and provides the “roads” along which proteins and other cargoes travel.

Gene therapy seems safe, may help control HIV

March 5, 2014 5:21 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists have modified genes in the blood cells of HIV patients to help them resist the AIDS virus, and say the treatment seems safe and promising. The results give hope that this approach might one day free at least some people from needing medicines to keep HIV under control, a form of cure.

Gene identified for butterfly wing marking mimicry

March 5, 2014 5:03 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

To fool predators, some butterflies create wing color patterns that make them resemble their unpalatable cousins. Only recently have scientists been unraveling how they do that, and now researchers have identified the gene that does the trick for an Asian swallowtail.

Doctors hope for cure in a 2nd baby born with HIV

March 5, 2014 1:21 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A second baby born with the AIDS virus may have had her infection put into remission and possibly cured by very early treatment—in this instance, four hours after birth. Doctors revealed the case Wednesday at an AIDS conference in Boston. The girl was born in suburban Los Angeles last April, a month after researchers announced the first case from Mississippi.

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Bright pulses of light could make space veggies more nutritious

March 5, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

One of the concerns for astronauts during future extended spaceflights will be the onslaught of eye-damaging radiation, and plants that contain carotenoids would help mitigate that harm. According to a new study by researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder, exposing leafy vegetables grown during spaceflight to a few bright pulses of light daily could increase the amount of eye-protecting nutrients produced by the plants.

New evidence confirms link between IQ and brain cortex

March 4, 2014 4:17 pm | News | Comments

According to a collaborative study by scientists in five countries, rate of change in the thickness of the brain’s cortex is an important factor associated with a person’s change in IQ. The study has potentially wide-ranging implications for the pedagogical world and for judicial cases in which the defendant’s IQ score could play a role in determining the severity of the sentence.

Giant virus revived after more than 30,000 years

March 4, 2014 3:15 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have revived a giant virus more than 30,000 years old, recovered from the permafrost of northeast Siberia. It is a new kind of giant virus, joining a group that was first discovered 10 years ago. But the virus poses no threat to people, only amoebas.

Shaky hand, stable spoon: Study shows device helps essential tremor patients

March 3, 2014 12:05 pm | News | Comments

For people whose hands shake uncontrollably due to a medical condition, just eating can be a frustrating and embarrassing ordeal, enough to keep them from sharing a meal with others. But a small new study conducted at the Univ. of Michigan Health System suggests that a new handheld electronic device can help such patients overcome the hand shakes caused by essential tremor, the most common movement disorder.

Peat soils as gigantic batteries

February 28, 2014 4:02 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurch | News | Comments

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Univ. of Tubingen in Europehave recently described a process that suppresses the formation of methane in soils that are rich in humic substances. The soils act as a battery, releasing to and accepting electrons from soil bacteria depending on the presence of oxygen. The study shows that electron transfer to and from humic substances is an important process with global implications for methane release.

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Earlier Detection of Cancer

February 28, 2014 1:55 pm | by Muneesh Tewari, Univ. of Michigan, and George Karlin-Neumann, Director of Scientific Affairs, Bio-Rad's Digital Biology Center | Articles | Comments

Finding treatments for advanced stage cancer isn’t easy. Therefore, early detection methods are paramount in the fight against the disease. Motivated by the opportunity to intervene as early as possible in the course of cancer, Dr. Muneesh Tewari, a Univ. of Michigan researcher, has been studying the diagnostic potential of blood-based biomarkers.

Researchers create coating material to prevent blood clots associated with implants

February 28, 2014 10:42 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A team of researchers has developed a material that could help prevent blood clots associated with catheters, heart valves, vascular grafts and other implanted biomedical devices. Blood clots at or near implanted devices are thought to occur when the flow of nitric oxide, a naturally occurring clot-preventing agent generated in the blood vessels, is cut off. When this occurs, the devices can fail.

Combination therapies combat HIV at cell junctions

February 28, 2014 10:36 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A new Yale Univ. study indicates that cell-to-cell transmission of HIV particles contributes to the development of full-blown AIDS and helps predict which anti-retroviral therapies will be most effective at keeping the disease at bay. The new research reinforces recent findings that a heavy concentration of the virus at the point of contact between cells is crucial to the development of AIDS.

Tracking genes on the path to genetic treatment

February 28, 2014 8:36 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Before doctors like Matthias Kretzler can begin using the results of molecular research to treat patients, they need science to find an effective way to match genes with the specific cells involved in disease. As Kretzler explains, finding that link would eventually let physicians create far more effective diagnostic tools and treatments.

Disease-causing bacterial invaders aided by failure of immune system switch

February 27, 2014 1:06 pm | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Immune system defenses against dangerous bacteria in the gut can be breached by turning off a single molecular switch that governs production of the protective mucus lining our intestinal walls, according to a study led by researchers at Yale Univ., the Univ. of British Columbia and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

February 27, 2014 12:47 pm | News | Comments

Shortly following the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news outlets and government buildings killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to a 2012 report, the bioterrorism event cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters.

One gene influences recovery from traumatic brain injury

February 27, 2014 9:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report that one tiny variation in the sequence of a gene may cause some people to be more impaired by traumatic brain injury than others with comparable wounds. The study, described in PLOS ONE, measured general intelligence in a group of 156 Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head injuries during the war.

Need a water filter? Peel a tree branch

February 27, 2014 7:39 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If you’ve run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there’s a simple solution: Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark and slowly pour lake water through the stick. The improvised filter should trap any bacteria, producing fresh, uncontaminated water. In fact, a team has discovered that this low-tech filtration system can produce up to 4 L of drinking water a day.

DNA blood tests show prenatal screening promise

February 26, 2014 5:20 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A DNA test of a pregnant woman's blood is more accurate than current methods of screening for Down syndrome and other common disorders, new research finds. If other studies bear this out, it could transform prenatal care by giving a more reliable, non-invasive way to detect these problems very early in pregnancy.

Nanoscale freezing leads to better imaging

February 26, 2014 4:40 pm | by Justin H.S. Breaux | News | Comments

For scientists to determine if a cell is functioning properly, they often must destroy it with ionizing radiation, which is used in x-ray fluorescence microscopy to provide detail that conventional microscopes can’t match. To address this, Argonne National Laboratory researchers created the R&D 100 Award-winning Bionanoprobe, which freezes cells to “see” at greater detail without damaging the sample.

Maze puts images on floor, where rats look

February 26, 2014 3:01 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Visual acuity is sharpest for rats and mice when the animals are looking down. Researchers have found that rodents can learn tasks in a fourth to a sixth of the usual number of repetitions when visual stimuli are projected onto the floor of the maze rather than onto the walls.

Finding a few foes among billions of friends

February 26, 2014 2:46 pm | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Beating cancer is all about early detection, and new research from the Univ. of South Carolina is another step forward in catching the disease early. A team of chemists is reporting a new way to detect just a few lurking tumor cells, which can be outnumbered a billion to one in the bloodstream by healthy cells.

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