Scientists studying grasslands in Oklahoma have discovered that an increase of 2 C in the air temperature above the soil creates significant changes to the microbial ecosystem underground. Compared to a control group with no warming, plants in the warmer plots grew faster and higher, which put more carbon into the soil. The microbial ecosystem responded by altering its DNA to enhance the ability to handle the excess carbon.
A small, preliminary study using gene therapy to treat a rare form of blindness is promising and could trigger similar efforts for other causes of vision loss, British doctors say. They studied just six patients. Of those, two have had dramatic improvements in their vision and none has reported any serious side effects. The study was only designed to test the treatment's safety, not its effectiveness.
How’s this for innovative: A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory-led team hopes to engineer a new enzyme that efficiently converts methane to liquid transportation fuel. Methane is the main component of natural gas and biogas from wastewater treatments and landfills. Another source is stranded natural gas, which is currently flared or vented at remote oil fields, and which represents an enormous unused energy resource.
Imagine seeing a dozen pictures flash by in a fraction of a second. You might think it would be impossible to identify any images you see for such a short time. However, a team of neuroscientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 msec—the first evidence of such rapid processing speed.
The controversial notion that being overweight might actually be healthier for some people with diabetes seems to be a myth, researchers report. A major study finds there's no survival advantage to being large, and a disadvantage to being very large. More than 24 million Americans have diabetes, mostly Type 2, the kind that is on the rise because of obesity. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight, including one-third who are obese.
The prevalence of Lyme disease varies greatly between different locales throughout the Northeast, even though the deer ticks that transmit Lyme bacterium are common throughout the entire region. A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine suggests an unusual explanation to the mystery: differences in the makeup of microbes in the guts of the ticks.
Researchers simulating how certain bacteria run electrical current through tiny molecular wires have discovered a secret nature uses for electron travel. The results are key to understanding how the bacteria do chemistry in the ground, and will help researchers use them in microbial fuel cells, batteries or for turning waste into electricity.
Cartilage is notoriously difficult to repair or grow, but researchers at Duke Medicine have taken a step toward understanding how to regenerate the connective tissue. By adding a chemical to cartilage cells, the chemical signals spurred new cartilage growth, mimicking the effects of physical activity. The findings point to an ion channel called TRPV4 as a potential target for new therapies to treat osteoarthritis or even regrow cartilage.
Biomedical engineer Lihong Wang and researchers in his laboratory work with lasers used in photoacoustic imaging for early cancer detection and a close look at biological tissue. But sometimes there are limitations to what they can do; and as engineers, they work to find a way around those limitations. The team found a novel way to use an otherwise unwanted side effect of the lasers they use—the photo bleaching effect—to their advantage.
If you've ever slipped on a slimy wet rock at the beach, you have bacteria to thank. Those bacteria, nestled in a supportive extracellular matrix, form bacterial biofilms. For some marine organisms, these biofilms serve a vital purpose, flagging suitable homes for such organisms and actually aiding the transformation of larvae to adults. A new study is the first to describe a mechanism for this phenomenon.
A closer look at microbes reveals there is big business going on in their very small world, and sometimes we are part of the transaction. In a published report, an international team of researchers argue that microbes, like many animals, can evolve into savvy traders, selling high and buying low.
Without the help of enzymes, we couldn’t digest food or synthesize DNA: They make the right metabolic reactions happen at the right speed. But like Goldilocks, enzymes won’t tolerate conditions that are too hot or too cold. They typically function within a narrow temperature band. To give them greater range, and potentially more applications, a team of Yale Univ. engineers has developed a method for designing temperature-adaptive enzymes.
Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have described a pair of drug candidates that advance the search for new treatments for pain, addiction and other disorders. The two new drug scaffolds offer researchers novel tools that act on a demonstrated therapeutic target, the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), which is located on nerve cells and plays a role in the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
The parasites that cause malaria are exquisitely adapted to the various hosts they infect; so studying the disease in mice doesn’t necessarily reveal information that could lead to drugs effective against human disease. Now, a team of researchers has developed a strain of mice that mimics most features of the human immune system and can be infected with the most common human form of the malaria parasite, known as Plasmodium falciparum.
Duke Univ. scientists have taken aim at what may be an Achilles' heel of the HIV virus. Combining expertise in biochemistry, immunology and advanced computation, researchers at Duke have determined the structure of a key part of the HIV envelope protein, the gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER), which previously eluded detailed structural description.
HIV antiviral therapy lets infected people live relatively healthy lives for many years, but the virus doesn’t go away completely. If treatment stops, the virus multiplies again from hidden reservoirs in the body. Now, investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute may have found HIV’s viral hiding place—in a small group of recently identified T-cells with stem cell-like properties.
Scientists have discovered how the element sodium influences the signaling of a major class of brain cell receptors, known as opioid receptors. The discovery, from The Scripps Research Institute and the Univ. of North Carolina, suggests new therapeutic approaches to a host of brain-related medical conditions.
A new MRI method to map creatine at higher resolutions in the heart may help clinicians and scientists find abnormalities and disorders earlier than traditional diagnostic methods, researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania suggest in a recent study. The preclinical findings show an advantage over less sensitive tests and point to a safer and more cost-effective approach than those with radioactive or contrasting agents.
Whales, bats and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system; and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans. Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have demonstrated that ultrasound directed to a specific region of the brain can boost performance in sensory discrimination.
A team of engineers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison has created a process to improve the creation of synthetic neural stem cells for use in central nervous system research. The process, outlined in a paper published in Stem Cells, will improve the state of the art in the creation of synthetic neural stem cells for use in central nervous system research.
Whether it's a mug full of fresh-brewed coffee, a cup of hot tea or a can of soda, consuming caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions who want to wake up or stay up. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Univ. have found another use for the popular stimulant: memory enhancer.
A new porous structure under development in German possesses essential properties of natural bone marrow and can be used for the reproduction of stem cells in the laboratory. The specific reproduction of these hematopoietic cells outside the body might facilitate new therapies for leukemia in a few years.
As more reports appear of a grim “post-antibiotic era” ushered in by the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, a new strategy for fighting infection is emerging that targets a patient’s cells rather than those of the invading pathogens. The approach involves looking at a class of proteins called phosphatases that is crucial for bacterial but involves the use of the host cell’s machinery.
Marine cyanobacteria are primary engines of Earth’s biogeochemical and nutrient cycles. They nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and with their own body mass. Now, scientists have discovered another dimension of the outsized role played by these tiny cells: The cyanobacteria continually produce and release vesicles, spherical packages containing nutrients that can serve as food parcels for marine organisms.
Harvard Univ. stem cells scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology can now engineer cells that are more easily controlled following transplantation, potentially making cell therapies, hundreds of which are currently in clinical trials across the U.S., more functional and efficient.