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Team deciphers structural details of deadly enzyme

September 20, 2012 8:09 am | by Lori Ann White | News | Comments

Scientists have been spending nearly a decade trying to pin down the crystalline structure of an enzyme complex that bacteria such as anthrax, leprosy, diptheria, and tuberculosis use to replicate themselves. X-ray analysis at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory now reveals how the enzyme is employed to synthesize a nucleotide these bacteria needs to produce DNA.

Diseases of aging map to a few “hotspots” on the human genome

September 19, 2012 9:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers have long known that individual diseases are associated with genes in specific locations of the genome. Now, genetics researchers have shown definitively that a small number of places in the human genome are associated with a large number and variety of diseases. In particular, several diseases of aging are associated with a locus which is more famous for its role in preventing cancer.

What truly leads to olfaction satisfaction

September 19, 2012 9:04 am | News | Comments

A new study of the sense of small lends support to a controversial theory of olfaction: Our noses can distinguish both the shape and vibrational characteristics of odorant molecules. The study demonstrates the feasibility of the theory that the vibration of an odorant molecule's chemical bonds contributes to our ability to distinguish one smelly thing from another.


Insight into snake venom evolution could aid drug discovery

September 19, 2012 3:50 am | News | Comments

U.K.-led scientists have made a discovery about snake venom that could lead to the development of new drugs to treat a range of life-threatening conditions. The researchers have discovered that the toxins that make snake and lizard venom deadly can evolve back into completely harmless molecules, raising the possibility that they could be developed into drugs.

Blue Brain Project accurately predicts connections between neurons

September 18, 2012 3:47 am | News | Comments

One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is to identify the map, or “connectome”, of synaptic connections between neurons. The Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has recently announced it has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

How bees decide what to be

September 18, 2012 3:40 am | News | Comments

Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists have recently reported what is believed to be the first evidence that complex, reversible behavioral patterns in bees—and presumably other animals—are linked to reversible chemical tags on genes. They say the most significant aspect of the new study is that for the first time DNA methylation “tagging” has been linked to something at the behavioral level of a whole organism.

Agilent, Molecular Discovery join forces

September 17, 2012 10:13 am | News | Comments

Agilent Technologies Inc. announced that it has entered into a comarketing agreement with Molecular Discovery Ltd. to provide biopharmaceutical researchers with an advanced metabolite-identification platform.

Ancient diatoms could make biofuels and electronics

September 17, 2012 8:51 am | News | Comments

Diatoms, tiny marine life forms that have been around since the dinosaurs, could finally make biofuel production from algae truly cost effective—because they can simultaneously produce other valuable products such as semiconductors, biomedical products, and even health foods. Engineers at Oregon State University concede that such technology is pushing the envelope a bit. But it's not science fiction.


The first mammalian “cell phone”

September 17, 2012 5:38 am | by Peter Rüegg | News | Comments

Researchers from in Zurich have literally created a “cell phone” from reprogrammed mammalian cells. Using suitable signal molecules and “devices” constructed from biological components, including genes and proteins, the researchers have achieved a synthetic two-way communication system inside a biological cell that also responds to concentration differences in the signal molecules.

Chemists develop reversible method of tagging proteins

September 17, 2012 3:44 am | News | Comments

Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method that, for the first time, provides scientists the ability to attach chemical probes onto proteins and subsequently remove them in a repeatable cycle. Their achievement will allow researchers to better understand the biochemistry of naturally formed proteins in order to create better antibiotics.

Study of giant viruses shakes up tree of life

September 14, 2012 4:10 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, University of Illinois | News | Comments

A new study of giant viruses supports the idea that viruses are ancient living organisms and not inanimate molecular remnants run amok, as some scientists have argued. The study may reshape the universal family tree, adding a fourth major branch to the three that most scientists agree represent the fundamental domains of life.

SNS researchers overcome the freezing sample problem in biostudies

September 13, 2012 10:07 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Spallation Neutron Source BASIS beam line at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have successfully developed a method to study biomolecules (proteins) at temperatures far below freezing using a lithium chloride preparation in the aqueous solvent that prevents freezing.

Information theory helps unravel DNA's genetic code

September 13, 2012 6:39 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology have used techniques from information theory to identify DNA introns and exons an order-of-magnitude faster than previously developed methods. The researchers were able to achieve this breakthrough in speed by looking at how electrical charges are distributed in the DNA nucleotide bases.


Real-world levitation to inspire better pharmaceuticals

September 13, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

It's not a magic trick and it's not sleight of hand—scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals.

Scientists discover how an out-of-tune protein leads to heart muscle failure

September 13, 2012 4:25 am | News | Comments

Troponin I, found exclusively in heart muscle, is already used as the gold-standard marker in blood tests to diagnose heart attacks, but the new findings by Johns Hopkins University researchers reveal why and how the same protein is also altered in heart muscle malfunctions that lead to heart failure. Scientists have known of “out-of-tune” proteins for a while, but the precise origin had remained unclear.

Human stem cells restore hearing in gerbil study

September 13, 2012 4:21 am | by Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have improved hearing in deaf animals by using human embryonic stem cells. The experiment involved an uncommon form of deafness, and the treatment wouldn't necessarily apply to all cases of that disorder. But scientists hope the approach can be expanded to help with more common forms of deafness.

Mammoth fragments from Siberia raise cloning hopes

September 12, 2012 5:16 am | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered well-preserved frozen woolly mammoth fragments deep in Siberia that may contain living cells, edging a tad closer to the "Jurassic Park" possibility of cloning a prehistoric animal. Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 100 m underground during a summer expedition in the northeastern province of Yakutia.

Gulf bacteria consumed a majority of the Deepwater oil spill

September 11, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

According to a new study that measured the rate at which bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico ate the oil and gas discharged by the broken Deepwater Horizon well, at least 200,000 tons of hydrocarbons were consumed by gulf bacteria over a five month period.

Beacons light up stem cell transformation

September 11, 2012 9:55 am | News | Comments

In a new study, Brown University researchers demonstrate a new tool for visually tracking in real-time the transformation of a living population of stem cells into cells of a specific tissue. The “molecular beacons,” which could advance tissue engineering research, light up when certain genes are expressed and don’t interfere with the development or operation of the stem cells.

Deciphering the language of transcription factors

September 11, 2012 3:25 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new, Massachusetts Institute of Technology-developed analytical method identifies the precise binding sites of transcription factors—proteins that regulate the production of other proteins—with 10 times the accuracy of its predecessors.

Surprising methods heal wounded troops

September 10, 2012 8:21 am | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer | News | Comments

Four years ago, the federal government created a new institute encompassing top universities and institutes and gave it $300 million to spur new treatments using cell science and advanced plastic surgery. The results, which are now helping to heal war veterans, include the implantation of rebuilt tissues—such as ears and bones—and even more unusual solutions like sprayed-on skin cells.

Imaging metals within cells

September 10, 2012 5:38 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Argonne National Laboratory carrying out research at the Advanced Photon Source have developed a new experimental approach that not only detects and distinguishes metals in proteins, but also characterizes the proteins that bind the metals, without removing them.

Medical scientists learn importance of molybdenum structure

September 10, 2012 5:24 am | News | Comments

Molybdenum plays critical roles in human health. It does not act alone but is found attached to certain proteins, called molybdenum enzymes, by a very large and extraordinarily complex organic molecule. A research group has found that the molecule occurs in nature in two forms based on its appearance: flat or distorted. The forms, it turns out, have very different functions.

Study finds how BPA affects gene expression

September 7, 2012 7:15 am | News | Comments

New research led by researchers at North Carolina State University shows that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) early in life results in high levels of anxiety by causing significant gene expression changes in a specific region of the brain called the amygdala. The researchers also found that a soy-rich diet can mitigate these effects.

Weapons of mass protection

September 7, 2012 5:18 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

Competition is a strong driving force of evolution for organisms of all sizes: Those individuals best equipped to obtain resources adapt and reproduce, while others may fall by the wayside. Many organisms also form cooperative social structures that allow resources to be defended and shared within a population. But surprisingly, even microbes, which are thought to thrive only when able to win the battle for resources against those nearest to them, have a somewhat sophisticated social structure that relies on cooperation, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists.

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