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Magnetic brain stimulation

March 13, 2015 7:54 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a method to stimulate brain tissue using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles: a technique allowing direct stimulation of neurons, which could be an effective treatment for a variety of neurological diseases, without the need for implants or external connections.

Using x-ray vision to probe early stages of DNA “photocopying”

March 12, 2015 8:25 am | by Catherine Kolf, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Univ. have created a 3-D model of a complex protein machine, ORC, which helps prepare DNA to be duplicated. Like an image of a criminal suspect, the intricate model of ORC has helped build a "profile" of the activities of this crucial "protein of interest." But the new information has uncovered another mystery.

Study yields insights into how plant cells grow

March 12, 2015 8:06 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A study by Purdue Univ. plant scientists and Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers advances our understanding of how plants control their shape and development at the cellular level. Their findings could help researchers engineer better cotton fibers, improve plant defense against insects, alter plant architecture and toughen root response to drought.

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Research Sheds Light on Secrets of Nature's Locomotive

March 10, 2015 8:55 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists have determined the basic structural organization of a molecular motor that hauls cargoes and performs other critical functions within cells. Biologists have long wanted to know how this molecular motor works. But the complex’s large size, myriad subunits and high flexibility have until now restricted structural studies to small pieces of the whole.

Bird Study Finds Older Parents Have Fewer Grandkids

March 10, 2015 8:44 am | by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology | News | Comments

In a long term study on a population of house sparrows, researchers found that offspring of older parents themselves produced fewer young. Such a transgenerational effect is important for the understanding of the evolution of longevity.

Neuropeptide Puts Brakes on Binge Drinking

March 10, 2015 8:32 am | by Univ. of North Carolina School of Medicine | News | Comments

A new study has identified both where and how a protein in the brain, called Neuropeptide Y (NPY), can act to suppress binge alcohol drinking. The find suggests that restoring NPY may be useful for treating alcohol use disorders and may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent.

Team Sees Circadian Clock Gene that Strengthens Crop

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by Dartmouth | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a circadian clock gene that helps a key crop plant to withstand extreme cold and salty conditions, which could help to develop hardier crops with improved yield. The next step is to extend these studies to corn, rice, wheat and soybean, the world's four major crops.  

‘Brain in a Jar’ Reveals Mechanics of Jet Lag

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by UC Irvine | News | Comments

Long the stuff of science fiction, the disembodied “brain in a jar” is providing science fact for a team of researchers, who, by studying the whole brains of fruit flies, are discovering the inner mechanisms of jet lag.  

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Researchers Explain How Aluminum Damages Crops

March 9, 2015 10:02 am | by The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.  

Researchers Untangle DNA

March 9, 2015 8:51 am | by Florida International Univ. | News | Comments

While today’s human body contains a variety of these proteins, a marine sciences professor believes they evolved from a single ancestor millions of years ago. This find is pivotal in unraveling the mysteries of DNA organization and regulation, and could someday lead to innovative biomonitoring strategies and therapies targeting a variety of diseases including cancer.

Heart-on-a-chip Aids Drug Screening

March 9, 2015 8:00 am | by UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Bioengineers are presenting a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells housed in an inch-long silicone device that effectively models human heart tissue. They have demonstrated the viability of this system as a drug-screening tool by testing it with cardiovascular medications.  

Researchers map switches that shaped the evolution of the human brain

March 6, 2015 1:10 pm | by Lindsay Borthwick, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale Univ. School of Medicine. Unlike in rhesus monkeys and mice, these switches show increased activity in humans, where they may drive the expression of genes in the cerebral cortex.

Twin copies of gene pair up in embryonic stem cells at critical moment in differentiation

March 6, 2015 8:45 am | by Peter Tarr, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine a pair of twins that everyone believed to be estranged, who turn out to be closer than anyone knew. A genetic version of this heartwarming tale might be taking place in our cells. We and other mammals have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Each copy, or "allele," was thought to remain physically apart from the other in the cell nucleus, but a new study finds that alleles can and do pair up in mammalian cells.

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Research suggests brain’s melatonin may trigger sleep

March 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

If you walk into your local drug store and ask for a supplement to help you sleep, you might be directed to a bottle labeled "melatonin." The hormone supplement's use as a sleep aid is supported by anecdotal evidence and even some reputable research studies. However, our bodies also make melatonin naturally, and until a recent Caltech study using zebrafish, no one knew how melatonin contributed to our natural sleep.

Neuroscientists identify new way brain areas communicate

March 4, 2015 11:04 am | by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | News | Comments

Carnegie Mellon Univ. neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain’s striatum. The findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex.

Genome reveals how Hessian fly causes galls in wheat

March 4, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers from 26 institutions around the world has sequenced the Hessian fly genome, shedding light on how the insect creates growth-stunting galls in wheat. Hessian fly larvae can destroy entire wheat fields by injecting seedlings with potent saliva that "hijacks" the plants' biochemistry, irreversibly halting development and forcing the seedlings to produce a leaky tissue that contains nutrients for the larvae.

Sizing up cells

March 3, 2015 8:40 am | by John Sullivan, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton Univ. researchers may have found the key in a dynamic agglomeration of molecules inside cells.

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight control and testing new therapies for obesity. To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 2, 2015 8:08 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, pipet and polymer

February 27, 2015 11:42 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought an efficient way to untangle DNA in order to study its structure under a microscope. Now, chemists and engineers at KU Leuven have devised a strikingly simple and effective solution: They inject genetic material into a droplet of water and use a pipet tip to drag it over a glass plate covered with a sticky polymer.

Cancer drug first tested in dogs begins human trials

February 27, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A new drug that prompts cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is now entering phase I clinical trials in humans. The drug, called PAC-1, first showed promise in the treatment of pet dogs with spontaneously occurring cancers, and is still in clinical trials in dogs with osteosarcoma.

Study maps extroversion types in brain’s anatomy

February 26, 2015 12:43 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” and the ambitious “go-getters”. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

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