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X-ray laser acts as tool to tack life’s chemistry

December 8, 2014 9:03 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

An international research team that includes researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has captured the highest-resolution protein snapshots ever taken with an x-ray laser, revealing how a key protein in a photosynthetic bacterium changes shape when hit by light.

Resistance and futility

December 8, 2014 8:09 am | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Penicillin, the wonder drug discovered in 1928, works in ways that are still mysterious almost a century later. One of the oldest and most widely used antibiotics, it attacks enzymes that build the bacterial cell wall, a mesh that surrounds the bacterial membrane and gives the cells their integrity and shape. Once that wall is breached, bacteria die, allowing us to recover from infection.

How stem cells can be activated to help immune system fight infection

December 5, 2014 10:49 am | by Peter Bracke, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

In a recent study, Univ. of California, Los Angeles scientists have shown that two genes not previously known to be involved with the immune system play a crucial role in how progenitor stem cells are activated to fight infection. This discovery lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the role progenitor cells can play in immune system response and could lead to the development of more effective therapies for diseases.

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Research paves way for nanomovies of biomolecules

December 5, 2014 9:42 am | by Joe Caspermeyer, Biodesign Institute | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have caught a light-sensitive biomolecule at work using an x-ray laser. Their new study proves that high speed x-ray lasers can capture the fast dynamics of biomolecules in ultra slow-motion, revealing subtle processes with unprecedented clarity.

Electric eels deliver Taser-like shocks

December 5, 2014 9:23 am | by Vanderbilt Univ. | Videos | Comments

The electric eel—the scaleless Amazonian fish that can deliver an electrical jolt strong enough to knock down a full-grown horse—possesses an electroshock system uncannily similar to a Taser. That’s the conclusion of a nine-month study of the way in which the electric eel uses high-voltage electrical discharges to locate and incapacitate its prey. 

Scientists uncover four-stranded elements of maize DNA

December 5, 2014 8:59 am | by Florida State Univ. | News | Comments

A team led by Florida State Univ. researchers has identified DNA elements in maize that could affect the expression of hundreds or thousands of genes. The team wanted to know if certain DNA structures such as the four-strand G-quadruplex (G4) DNA might exist throughout the genetic material of maize.

A poisonous cure

December 5, 2014 8:53 am | by Michigan State Univ. Media Communications | News | Comments

Take two poisonous mushrooms, and call me in the morning. While no doctor would ever write this prescription, toxic fungi may hold the secrets to tackling deadly diseases. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists has discovered an enzyme that is the key to the lethal potency of poisonous mushrooms.

Novel approach to treating asthma

December 4, 2014 7:51 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Current asthma treatments can alleviate wheezing, coughing and other symptoms felt by millions of Americans every year, but they don’t get to the root cause of the condition. Now, for the first time, scientists are reporting a new approach to defeating asthma by targeting the trigger—the allergen—before it can spark an attack. They describe their new compound, which they tested on rats, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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Geckos are sticky without effort

December 3, 2014 4:56 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Geckos, found in places with warm climates, have fascinated people for hundreds of years. Scientists have been especially intrigued by these lizards, and have studied a variety of features such as the adhesive toe pads on the underside of gecko feet with which geckos attach to surfaces with remarkable strength.

Ability of HIV to cause AIDS is slowing

December 3, 2014 10:02 am | by Oxford Univ. | News | Comments

The rapid evolution of HIV, which has allowed the virus to develop resistance to patients' natural immunity, is at the same time slowing the virus's ability to cause AIDS. The Oxford Univ.-led study also indicates that people infected by HIV are likely to progress to AIDS more slowly—in other words the virus becomes less “virulent”—because of widespread access to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Cancer uses abdominal stem cells to fuel growth, metastasis

December 3, 2014 9:08 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

New research from Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center shows how ovarian tumors co-opt a specific type of adult stem cell from abdominal tissues to fuel their growth. The research, published online in Cancer Research, suggests a new way to target aggressive ovarian cancers by disrupting the metabolic processes that allow them to thrive.

White House claims progress in Ebola fight

December 2, 2014 2:03 pm | by By Jim Kuhnhenn - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The White House says the Obama administration is making strides in the fight against Ebola, citing an expanded hospital network and testing capacity at home and gains confronting the deadly disease in West Africa. To sustain that, President Barack Obama was prodding Congress Tuesday to approve his request for $6.2 billion in emergency spending against the outbreak.

Software speeds detection of diseases, cancer treatment targets

December 2, 2014 10:03 am | by James E. Rickman, Communications Office, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Los Alamos National Laboratory has released an updated version of powerful bioinformatics software that is now capable of identifying DNA from viruses and all parts of the Tree of Life—putting diverse problems such as identifying pathogen-caused diseases, selection of therapeutic targets for cancer treatment and optimizing yields of algae farms within relatively easy reach for health care professionals, researchers and others.

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Different species share a “genetic toolkit” for behavioral traits

December 2, 2014 8:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The house mouse, stickleback fish and honey bee appear to have little in common, but at the genetic level these creatures respond in strikingly similar ways to danger, researchers report. When any of these animals confronts an intruder, the researchers found, many of the same genes and brain gene networks gear up or down in response.

Exploring cells in 3-D

December 2, 2014 8:12 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Researchers can now explore viruses, bacteria and components of the human body in more detail than ever before with software developed at The Scripps Research Institute. In a study published online in Nature Methods, the researchers demonstrated how the software, called cellPACK, can be used to model viruses such as HIV.

Protein predicts response to new immunotherapy drug

December 1, 2014 11:00 am | by Vicky Agnew, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The presence of an immune-suppressing protein in non-cancerous immune cells may predict how patients with different types of cancer respond to treatment, a multi-center phase I study using an investigational immune therapy drug has found. The trial included patients with melanoma or cancers of the lung, kidney, colon, GI tract, or head and neck, whose tumors were evaluated for PD-L1 expression by a novel assay.

Seeking answers from a mysterious parasite

December 1, 2014 9:48 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite often spread by cats. Most people who are infected in Europe or North America show no symptoms at all, and only a few suffer from encephalitis or ocular toxoplasmosis, which can cause blindness. However, in South America, toxoplasmosis is associated with much more severe symptoms.

Copper on the brain at rest

December 1, 2014 8:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now, a new study has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest.

Researchers discover "pre-cancers" in blood

November 26, 2014 6:00 pm | by By Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Many older people silently harbor a blood "pre-cancer"—a gene mutation acquired during their lifetime that could start them on the path to leukemia, lymphoma or other blood disease, scientists have discovered. It opens a new frontier on early detection and possibly someday preventing these cancers, which become more common with age.

How turkeys may be lifesavers

November 25, 2014 4:51 pm | by Todd Hollingshead, Brigham Young Univ. | News | Comments

While the turkey you eat on Thursday will bring your stomach happiness and could probably kick-start an afternoon nap, it may also save your life one day. That’s because the biological machinery needed to produce a potentially life-saving antibiotic is found in turkeys. Looks like there is one more reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving.

Doctor behind "free radical" aging theory dies

November 25, 2014 2:02 pm | by By Josh Funk - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Dr. Denham Harman, a renowned scientist who developed the most widely accepted theory on aging that's now used to study cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, has died in Nebraska at age 98. Harman, who worked into his mid-90s at the Univ. of Nebraska Medical Center died after a brief illness at a hospital in Omaha.

Angiogenesis drug could provide treatment for TB

November 25, 2014 9:27 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The body responds to tuberculosis infection by locking the bacterial offenders into tiny clusters of immune cells called granulomas, which are a hallmark of the disease. This containment strategy succeeds at first, but eventually the bacteria manage to break out of these intercellular jails and spread throughout the body.

Pain in a dish

November 25, 2014 9:11 am | by Harvard Stem Cell Institute | News | Comments

After more than six years of intensive effort, and repeated failures that made the quest at times seem futile, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard’s Dept. of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology have successfully converted mouse and human skin cells into pain-sensing neurons that respond to a number of stimuli that cause acute and inflammatory pain.

Device could make large biological circuits practical

November 25, 2014 7:59 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits: systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular kind of output. But while individual components of such biological circuits can have precise and predictable responses, those outcomes become less predictable as more such elements are combined.

Brain’s reaction to virtual reality

November 25, 2014 7:42 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

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