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New hope in treating African sleeping sickness

October 27, 2014 7:53 am | by Joe O'Connell, Staff Writer, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

In early drug dis­covery, you need a starting point. In a new research paper pub­lished in PLOS-Neglected Trop­ical Dis­eases, a team of researchers present hun­dreds of such starting points for poten­tially treating Human African try­panoso­mi­asis, or sleeping sick­ness, a deadly dis­ease that affects thou­sands of people annually.

Molecular beacons shine light on how cells "crawl"

October 24, 2014 12:40 pm | by Carol Clark, EScience Commons | News | Comments

Adherent cells, the kind that form the architecture of all multicellular organisms, are engineered with precise forces that allow them to move around and stick to things. When these cells are put into a petri dish with a variety of substrates they can sense the differences in the surfaces and they will “crawl” toward the stiffest one. Chemists have devised a method using DNA-based tension probes to measure and map these phenomena.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

October 23, 2014 9:37 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bio-engineers are working on the development of biological computers: biological material that can be integrated into cells to change their functions. Researchers in Europe have now developed a biological circuit that controls the activity of individual sensor components using internal "timer". This circuit prevents a sensor from being active when not required by the system; when required, it can be activated via a control signal.

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Researchers record sight neurons in jumping spider brain

October 22, 2014 2:43 pm | Videos | Comments

Though neurobiologists have tried for half a century to better understand the brains of jumping spiders, no one has succeeded. The liquid in spiders’ bodies is pressurized, and they move with hydraulic pressure and muscles. But with a new technique using a tiny tungsten recording electrode, researchers have made recordings of neurons associated with visual perception inside the poppy seed-sized brain the spider.

Researchers advance genome editing technique

October 22, 2014 7:41 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Customized genome editing has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture. Now, in a paper published in Molecular Cell, North Carolina State Univ. researchers and colleagues examine six key molecular elements that help drive this genome editing system, which is known as CRISPR-Cas.

If CD8 T cells take on one virus, they’ll fight others too

October 21, 2014 10:36 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists think of CD8 T cells as long-lived cells that become tuned to fight just one pathogen, but a new study finds that once CD8 T cells fight one pathogen, they also join the body’s “innate” immune system, ready to answer the calls of the cytokine signals that are set off by a wide variety of infections.

Supercomputers link proteins to drug side effects

October 21, 2014 8:48 am | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

New medications created by pharmaceutical companies have helped millions of Americans alleviate pain and suffering from their medical conditions. However, the drug creation process often misses many side effects that kill at least 100,000 patients a year, according to Nature.

High blood-sugar levels may harden heart valves

October 21, 2014 8:05 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. bioengineers have found new evidence of a possible link between diabetes and the hardening of heart valves. A Rice laboratory, in collaboration with the Univ. of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, discovered that the interstitial cells that turn raw materials into heart valves need just the right amount of nutrients for proper metabolic function.

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CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines

October 20, 2014 11:29 pm | by Mike Stobbe - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal health officials on Monday issued new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients. Officials have been scrambling to come up with new advice for protective gear since two Dallas nurses became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the U.S.

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream

October 20, 2014 9:46 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

DNA has garnered attention for its potential as a programmable material platform that could spawn entire new and revolutionary nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology and more. Researchers have been working to master the ability to coax DNA molecules to self-assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology dreams.

“Mega” cells control the growth of blood-producing cells

October 20, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

While megakaryocytes are best known for producing platelets that heal wounds, these "mega" cells found in bone marrow also play a critical role in regulating stem cells according to new research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The study is the first to show that hematopoietic stem cells (the parent cells) can be directly controlled by their own progeny (megakaryocytes).

Ebola fear, monitoring eases for some in Dallas

October 20, 2014 1:26 am | by Marilynn Marchione - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Ebola fears began to ease for some Monday as a monitoring period passed for those who had close contact with a victim of the disease and after a cruise ship scare ended with the boat returning to port and a laboratory worker on board testing negative for the virus. Federal officials meanwhile ramped up readiness to deal with future cases.

Geneticists evaluate cost-effective genome analysis

October 17, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Scientists perform genome sequences because want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. However, sequencing a complete genome still costs around $1,000, and sequencing hundreds of individuals would be costly. In two recent review papers, scientists discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups, or pool sequencing, can be an efficient and cost-effective approach.

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Designing antibiotics of the future

October 17, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

Scientists have used computer simulations to show how bacteria are able to destroy antibiotics, a breakthrough which will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future. Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol focused on the role of enzymes in the bacteria, which split the structure of the antibiotic and stop it working, making the bacteria resistant. 

LLNL, UC Davis partner to personalize cancer medications

October 17, 2014 8:27 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

Biological sample prep time cut dramatically

October 16, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers invented the field of biological accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in the late 1980s, the process of preparing the samples was time-consuming and cumbersome. Physicists and biomedical researchers used torches, vacuum lines, special chemistries and high degrees of skill to convert biological samples into graphite targets that could then be run through the AMS system.

Ultrasound reveals secrets of deadly abdominal aortic aneurysms

October 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are exploring the usefulness of ultrasound imaging to study dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulging of the aorta that is usually fatal when it ruptures and for which there is no effective medical treatment. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 15,000 annually.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Effects of high-risk Parkinson’s mutation are reversible

October 15, 2014 9:01 am | by Amy Pullan, Media Relations Office, University of Sheffield | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease, however the basis for this link is unclear.  

Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

Rock-dwelling microbes remove methane from deep sea

October 14, 2014 1:26 pm | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study. The rock-dwelling microbes represent a previously unrecognized biological sink for methane and as a result could reshape scientists' understanding of where this greenhouse gas is being consumed in subseafloor habitats.

Discovery of cellular snooze button advances cancer and biofuel research

October 14, 2014 12:53 pm | by Michigan State Univ. Media Communications | News | Comments

The discovery of a cellular snooze button has allowed a team of Michigan State Univ. scientists to potentially improve biofuel production and offer insight on the early stages of cancer. The discovery finds the protein CHT7 is a likely repressor of cellular quiescence, or resting state. This cellular switch, which influences algae’s growth and oil production, also wields control of cellular growth—and tumor growth—in humans.

ALS progression linked to increased protein instability

October 14, 2014 8:14 am | by Jon Weiner, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other institutions suggests a cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The team's work supports a common theme whereby loss of protein stability leads to disease.

All that glitters is...slimy? Gold nanoparticles measure snot stickiness

October 13, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Scientists create mimic of “good” cholesterol to fight heart disease, stroke

October 13, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.

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