In a laboratory first, Duke Univ. researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The laboratory-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.
New research has identified one of the key cancer-fighting mechanisms for sulforaphane, and suggests that this phytochemical may be able to move beyond cancer prevention and toward therapeutic use for advanced prostate cancer. Scientists said that pharmacologic doses in the form of supplements would be needed for actual therapies, beyond the amount of sulforaphane that would ordinarily be obtained from dietary sources such as broccoli.
A new study from Lund Univ. in Sweden indicates inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterize the human brain. Researchers have long been aware endogenous retroviruses constitute around 5% of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side effect of our evolutionary journey.
Forget about it. Your brain is a memory powerhouse, constantly recording experiences in long-term memory. Those memories help you find your way through the world: Who works the counter each morning at your favorite coffee shop? How do you turn on the headlights of your car? What color is your best friend's house?
Washington State Univ. Spokane scientists have found a brain protein that boosts the healing power of sleep and speeds an animal's recovery from the flu. The research has determined that a brain-specific protein is uniquely involved in sleep responses triggered by the influenza virus in mice. Without the protein, animals develop more severe symptoms of infection and die at higher rates than regular or control mice.
People who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health, suggests a new study that examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults. Participants’ cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use.
Optogenetics, which uses light to control cellular events, is poised to become an important technology in molecular biology and beyond. The Reich Group in Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry has made a major contribution to this emergent field by developing a light-activated nanocarrier that transports proteins into cells and releases them on command.
Inflammation is a normal and often beneficial response to injury or infection. The swelling, heat and even pain are the body’s attempts to protect its soft tissue, remove offending objects, substances or microbes and initiate healing. However, persistent inflammation is often indicative of more serious conditions and can lead to problems of its own, including impaired healing, loss of function or even tissue death.
A small protein active in the human immune response can disable bacterial toxins by exploiting a property that makes the toxins effective, but also turns out to be a weakness. These toxins, which are released by bacteria, have malleable surfaces that allow them to move through porous areas of host cells to pave the way for bacteria to stay alive. But that same malleability makes the toxins vulnerable to these immune system proteins.
Dissecting neuron function, while crucially important for understanding normal and pathological neurological processes, requires measuring the responses of live cells to external stimuli. Because of the inherent difficulties in performing perturbation analyses inside living organisms, there has been a longstanding drive towards developing methodologies for in vitro analysis of neurons.
Shortly after birth, human brains expand rapidly with the experience of an entirely new world. During this period, neurons in the newborn brain compete with one another to form lasting connections, called synapses. A new study by Duke Univ. researchers provides a close-up of synapse refinement and identifies a protein that is crucial in this process.
Univ. of California, Irvine scientists studying the role of circadian rhythms in skin stem cells found that this clock plays a key role in coordinating daily metabolic cycles and cell division. Their research, which appears in Cell Reports, shows, for the first time, how the body’s intrinsic day-night cycles protect and nurture stem cell differentiation.
Green shoots are a sign of spring, but growing those shoots and roots is a complicated process. Now researchers at the Univ. of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst have, for the first time, described part of the network of genetic controls that allows a plant to grow.
For a skin cell to do its job, it must turn on a completely different set of genes than a liver cell—and keep genes it doesn’t need switched off. One way of turning off large groups of genes at once is to send them to “time-out” at the edge of the nucleus, where they are kept quiet. New research from Johns Hopkins sheds light on how DNA gets sent to the nucleus’ far edge, a process critical to controlling genes and determining cell fate.
As a part of the human immune system, white blood cells create a number of enzymes that help fight disease. Sometimes, these enzymes damage tissues in inflammatory diseases. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri, have determined that one of these enzymes, known as MMP12, does not remain outside of cells while it fights infections, but rather it can travel all the way to the center of cells.
The tics seen in Tourette syndrome may be caused by the loss of specific neurons in the brain, a Yale Univ. study has demonstrated. Previous postmortem studies of people with severe forms of the disease showed that there was a decrease in a rare but important type of neuron in the dorsal striatum, deep within the brain.
Vaccines designed to protect against HIV can backfire and lead to increased rates of infection. This unfortunate effect has been seen in more than one vaccine clinical trial. Scientists at Emory Univ. have newly published results that support a straightforward explanation for the backfire effect: vaccination may increase the number of immune cells that serve as viral targets.
New research findings point toward a class of compounds that could be effective in combating infections caused by enterovirus D68, which has stricken children with serious respiratory infections in the U.S. and elsewhere. The researchers used x-ray crystallography to learn the precise structure of the original strain of EV-D68 on its own and when bound to an anti-viral compound called "pleconaril."
With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise, even common infections that were easily controlled for decades are proving trickier to treat with standard antibiotics. New drugs are desperately needed, but so are ways to maximize the effective lifespan of these drugs. To accomplish that, Duke Univ. researchers used software they developed to predict a constantly evolving infectious bacterium's countermoves to one of these new drugs ahead of time.
Plant geneticists from the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst and the Univ. of California, Davis have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the three polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The plant geneticists say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels.
The government issues dietary guidelines every five years to encourage Americans to eat healthier. This year's version may look at what is healthy for the environment, too. A new focus on the environment would mean asking people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods—possibly at the expense of meat.
The tequila sure looks real, so do the beer taps. Inside the hospital at the National Institutes of Health, researchers are testing a possible new treatment to help heavy drinkers cut back, using a replica of a fully stocked bar. The idea: Sitting in the dimly lit bar-laboratory should cue the volunteers' brains to crave a drink, and help determine if the experimental pill counters that urge.
Stroke victims could have more time to seek treatment that could reduce harmful effects on the brain, thanks to tiny blobs of gelatin that could deliver the medication to the brain noninvasively. Univ. of Illinois researchers found that gelatin nanoparticles could be laced with medications for delivery to the brain, and that they could extend the treatment window for when a drug could be effective.
Open any introductory biology textbook and one of the first things you’ll learn is that our DNA spells out the instructions for making proteins, tiny machines that do much of the work in our body’s cells. Results from a study published in Science defy textbook science, showing for the first time that the building blocks of a protein, called amino acids, can be assembled without blueprints.
Use of a light-emitting electronic book (LE-eBook) in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness and the circadian clock, which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues, according to Harvard Medical School researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.