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Protein that boosts longevity may protect against diabetes

August 8, 2012 11:08 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A type of protein called a sirtuin that slows aging in mice and other animals also protects against the ravages of a high-fat diet, including diabetes, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. First discovered in the 1990s, these proteins have since been shown to coordinate a variety of hormonal networks, regulatory proteins and other genes, helping to keep cells alive and healthy.

Computer models calculate systems-wide costs of gene expression

August 8, 2012 6:16 am | News | Comments

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method of modeling, simultaneously, an organism’s metabolism and its underlying gene expression. In addition to serving as a platform for investigating fundamental biological questions, this technology enables far more detailed calculations of the total cost of synthesizing many different chemicals, including biofuels.

Newly developed composite nanofibers open next chapter in orthopaedic biomaterials

August 7, 2012 11:56 am | News | Comments

Bioengineered replacements for tissues require recreation of the exquisite architecture of these tissues in three dimensions. These fibrous, collagen-based tissues located throughout the body have an ordered structure that gives them their ability to bear extreme mechanical loading. A team from the University of Pennsylvania has developed and validated a new technology in which composite nanofibrous scaffolds provide a loose enough structure for cells to colonize without impediment, but still can instruct cells how to lay down new tissue.

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Micron-scale swimming robot could deliver drugs using simple motion

August 7, 2012 6:52 am | News | Comments

When you're just a few microns long, swimming can be difficult. At that size scale, the viscosity of water is more like that of honey, and momentum can't be relied upon to maintain forward motion. Microorganisms, of course, have evolved ways to swim in spite of these challenges, but tiny robots haven't quite caught up, until now.

Scientists define new limits of microbial life in undersea volcanoes

August 7, 2012 6:21 am | News | Comments

This week researchers have reported the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes. As evidence builds that a large amount of biomass exists in Earth’s subsurface, the scientists’ major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for these extreme microbes.

Virtual nanoscopy: Like 'Google Earth' for cell biologists

August 7, 2012 4:23 am | News | Comments

Electron microscopy reveals cellular structures in high detail, but only tiny portions of a cell can be seen at a time. A team of scientists has tackled this problem by developing new tools for stitching together thousands of electron microscopy images into single, high-resolution images of biological tissues—a "Google Earth" for cell biologists. A newly enhanced viewer is available for public use.

Team aims to broaden researcher access to protein simulation

August 7, 2012 4:06 am | News | Comments

Using just an upgraded desktop computer equipped with a relatively inexpensive graphics processing card, a team of computer scientists and biochemists at the University of California, San Diego has developed advanced GPU accelerated software and demonstrated, for the first time, that this approach can sample biological events that occur on the millisecond timescale.

Evolutionary molecule identified by researchers

August 7, 2012 3:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Dundee have identified a molecule that could play a key role in how cells develop into the building blocks of life. The molecule, called cyclic-di-GMP, has been identified as being the signal which can induce differentiation into stalk cells.

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Research collaboration among multiple institutions is a growing trend

August 6, 2012 6:03 am | News | Comments

According to a recent National Science Foundation report, the amount of R&D funding that passed through universities to others for collaborative projects during fiscal years 2000 to 2009 grew more rapidly than overall academic R&D expenditures. Federal initiatives and technological advances are thought to be contributing factors to this trend.

Researchers identify a novel double-stranded DNA structure

August 6, 2012 5:47 am | News | Comments

Addressing a scientific debate that had lasted for 16 years over the existence of a certain type of double-stranded DNA structure called S-DNA, researchers in Singapore were able to create the structure by stretching conventional double-stranded DNA beyond a certain transition force. The debate centered over whether the new structure was merely a melting transition for a full-fledge form.

Study finds link between cell division and growth rate

August 6, 2012 4:32 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It's a longstanding question in biology: How do cells know when to progress through the cell cycle? In simple organisms such as yeast, cells divide once they reach a specific size. However, determining if this holds true for mammalian cells has been difficult, in part because there has been no good way to measure mammalian cell growth over time, until now.

How the cell swallows

August 3, 2012 8:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany have recently combined the power of two kinds of microscope to produce a 3D movie of how cells “swallow” nutrients and other molecules by bending its membrane inwards and engulfing them.

Fish-eye view could offer insights for human vision

August 3, 2012 5:23 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner | News | Comments

Zeran Li, as an undergraduate student in biological sciences at Purdue University, led a research team that uncovered an enzyme's role in the regulation of eye size in the fish. If the enzyme's role is similar in human eyes, it could be relevant to human vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.

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In fly DNA, the footprint of a fly virus

August 2, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

In a curious evolutionary twist, biologists from the University of Buffalo report, several species of a commonly studied fruit fly appear to have incorporated genetic material from a virus into their genomes. This discovery of virus-like genes in the DNA of a commonly studied fruit fly could enable research on whether animals hijack viral genes as an anti-viral defense.

Study: Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are

August 1, 2012 11:57 am | News | Comments

When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of exceptionally smart humans from those of average humans? Size and prefrontal cortex activity contribute, but new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that another 10% of individual differences in intelligence can be explained by the strength of neural pathways connecting the left prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain.

High-tech silver dressings ward off infection in wounds

August 1, 2012 11:51 am | News | Comments

Pioneered by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and applied onto the business end of artificial skin, nanofilms that release antibacterial silver over time have recently shown they can eradicate bacteria in full-thickness skin wounds in mice.

Tumor cells change when put into a “tight spot”

August 1, 2012 11:45 am | by Allison Chambliss, Johns Hopkins University | News | Comments

Surprisingly, 90% of cancer deaths are caused from metastasis,the migration of cancer cells from a primary tumor to other parts of the body, not from the primary tumor alone. To better understand what happens to cells affected by this process, Johns Hopkins University researchers have fabricated a microfluidic-based cell migration chamber that has already yielded surprising results.

Tissue engineering tool creates flesh on a large scale

August 1, 2012 4:26 am | News | Comments

Imagine a machine that makes layered, substantial patches of engineered tissue. Sounds like science fiction? According to researchers at the University of Toronto, it's a growing possibility. They have invented a method that incorporates cells onto a mosaic hydrogel that offers the perfect conditions for growth.

Prozac could be an effective anti-viral

July 30, 2012 4:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers have come across an unexpected potential use for fluoxetine—commonly known as Prozac—which shows promise as an antiviral agent. Using molecular screening, a California research team found that fluoxetine was a potent inhibitor of replication in viruses found in the gastrointestinal tract. The discovery could provide another tool in treating human enteroviruses that sicken and kill people in the U.S. and around the world.

Celebrated molecular biology lab manual updated, expanded

July 30, 2012 3:56 am | News | Comments

Molecular Cloning has served as the foundation of technical expertise in labs worldwide for 30 years. No other manual has been so popular, or so influential. For the fourth edition of this classic work, the content has been entirely recast to include nucleic-acid based methods selected as the most widely used and valuable in molecular and cellular biology laboratories.

Keeping Samples Cold, Very Cold

July 27, 2012 7:54 am | by Mike May, Contributing Editor | Articles | Comments

Extremely low temperatures enhance storage and various research projects.

Wyss Institute aims to mimic whole human body with organ-on-chip

July 27, 2012 7:35 am | News | Comments

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University this week reported that it will receive up to $37 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an automated instrument that integrates 10 human organs-on-chips to study complex human physiology outside the body. The aim is to simulate the entire body’s physiology.

The Olympics and bare feet: The debate continues

July 27, 2012 7:22 am | News | Comments

Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila made history when he earned a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. His speed and agility won him the gold, but it was barefoot running that made him a legend. Since then, experts have been split on whether running barefoot is beneficial. Recent research sheds light on why opinions have been so inconclusive.

No-Wait Medical Diagnostic Tool

July 27, 2012 6:52 am | Articles | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a lab-on-a-disk platform, SpinDx, that they believe will be faster, less expensive, and more versatile than current medical diagnostic tools.

Scientists find way to make disease-causing proteins vulnerable to drugs

July 27, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

One of the most daunting challenges facing pharmaceutical scientists today are "undruggable proteins"—the approximately 80% of proteins involved in human disease that do not interact with current drugs. Yale University researchers have identified a novel way to design drugs for these previously inaccessible proteins.

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