Cilia are one of nature’s great multipurpose tools. The tiny, hair-like fibers protrude from cell membranes and perform all kinds of tasks in all kinds of creatures, from helping clear debris from human lungs to enabling single-celled organisms to swim. Now, physicists from Brown Univ. have discovered something that could help scientists understand how cilia have been adapted for so many varied tasks.
Rice Univ. researchers have engineered cells to characterize how sensitively altering the cooperative functions of motor proteins can regulate the transport of organelles. The study compared the collective behaviors of kinesin-1 and myosinVa in living cells to determine how these motor proteins cooperate as they move vesicles and organelles along intracellular highways formed from cytoskeletal filaments.
To safely use bacteria in agriculture to help fertilize crops, it is vital to understand the difference between harmful and healthy strains. The bacterial genus Burkholderia, for example, includes dangerous disease-causing pathogens—one species has even been listed as a potential bioterrorist agent—but also many species that are safe and important for plant development.
According to recent research that shows the first unambiguous theoretical evidence of quantum effects in photosynthesis, light-gathering macromolecules in plant cells transfer energy by taking advantage of molecular vibrations whose physical descriptions have no equivalents in classical physics.
Purdue Univ. researchers have discovered a microbial-like pathway in plants that produces phenylalanine. Plants mainly synthesize phenylalanine through a chain of chemical reactions that converts the organic acid arogenate to phenylalanine. But Purdue researchers demonstrated that plants also use an alternative pathway found in most microorganisms to make phenylalanine from phenylpyruvate.
Talk about mind over matter: A quirky new study suggests patients' expectations can make a big difference in how they feel after treatment for a migraine. Boston researchers recruited 66 migraine patients in an attempt to quantify how much of their pain relief came from a medication and how much was due to what's called the placebo effect, the healing power of positive belief.
One of the most hotly debated issues in current human origins research focuses on how the 4.4-million-year-old African species Ardipithecus ramidus is related to the human lineage. “Ardi” was an unusual primate. Though it possessed a tiny brain and a grasping big toe used for clambering in the trees, it had small, humanlike canine teeth and an upper pelvis modified for bipedal walking on the ground.
Genetic systems run like clockwork, attuned to temperature, time of day and many other factors as they regulate living organisms. Scientists at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Houston have opened a window onto one aspect of the process that has confounded researchers for decades: the mechanism by which genetic regulators adjust to changing temperature.
The idea of everyone in a community pitching in is so universal that even bacteria have a system to prevent the layabouts of their kind from enjoying the fruit of others' hard work, Princeton Univ. researchers have discovered. Groups of the bacteria Vibrio cholerae deny loafers their unjust desserts by keeping the food generated by the community's productive members away from V. cholerae that attempt to live on others' leftover nutrients.
Developed by a team of researchers in Massachusetts and California, “nanotraps” are nanoparticles that act as viral traps using specific molecules found naturally within the human body. Initial testing on the treatments, which each use tiny, non-toxic particles that can be injected, inhaled, or eaten, has shown them to be effective and safe against a multitude of strains of disease.
The ability to determine protein stoichiometry and monitor the ratio of protein types allows scientists to see the difference between a properly functioning cell and a diseased cell. Photoactivation fluorescences studies have resulted in undercounting of proteins, however, leading a science group to recently establish new methodology for determining protein stoichiometry.
With the help of biomimetic matrices, a research team led by bioengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego has discovered exactly how calcium phosphate can coax stem cells to become bone-building cells. The team has traced a surprising pathway from these biomaterials to bone formation. Their findings will help them refine the design of biomaterials that encourage stem cells to give rise to new bone.
Although complications from surgical care for cancer patients may seem infrequent, the costs associated with such outcomes are extremely high, according to researchers from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
From a biological point of view, the world’s most exotic sex lives may be the ones lived by fungi. As a kingdom, they are full of surprises, and a new one reported in Nature seems sure to titillate the intellects of those who study the evolution of mating and ploidy, the complement of chromosomes in each cell.
A compound derived from a traditional Chinese herbal medicine has been found effective at alleviating pain, pointing the way to a new non-addictive analgesic for acute inflammatory and nerve pain, according to Univ. of California Irvine (UC Irvine) pharmacology researchers. Working with Chinese scientists, the UC Irvine team isolated a compound called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) from the roots of the Corydalis yanhusuo plant.
A novel breast cancer therapy partially reverses the cancerous state in cultured breast tumor cells and prevents cancer development in mice, and it could one day provide a new way to treat early stages of the disease without resorting to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, a multi-institutional team led by researchers from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported.
Researchers say vitamin E might slow the progression of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease—the first time any treatment has been shown to alter the course of dementia at that stage. In a study of more than 600 older veterans, high doses of the vitamin delayed the decline in daily living skills, such as making meals, getting dressed and holding a conversation, by about six months over a two-year period.
By the time they’re two, most children have had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and suffered symptoms no worse than a bad cold. But for some children, RSV can lead to pneumonia and bronchitis. A new imaging technique for studying the structure of the RSV virion and the activity of RSV in living cells could help researchers unlock the secrets of the virus.
Recently, a study team from the First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen Univ. in China has verified that virtual reality training using the Kinect system from the Xbox 360 could promote the recovery of upper limb motor function in subacute stroke patients, and brain reorganization by Kinect-based virtual reality training may be linked to the contralateral sensorimotor cortex.
The government is preparing to regulate the new field of hand and face transplants like it does standard organ transplants, giving more Americans who are disabled or disfigured by injury, illness or combat a chance at this radical kind of reconstruction. The United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, will develop the new policies over the next few months.
New findings suggest the oxytocin receptor, a gene known to influence mother-infant bonding and pair bonding in monogamous species, also plays a special role in the ability to remember faces. This research has important implications for disorders in which social information processing is disrupted, including autism spectrum disorder.
Even scientists are fond of thinking of the human brain as a computer, following sets of rules. But if the brain is like a computer, why do brains make mistakes that computers don't? Recent research shows that our brains stumble on even the simplest rule-based calculations, because humans get caught up in contextual information, even when the rules are as clear-cut as separating even numbers from odd.
Can an experimental drug developed to treat epilepsy block the AIDS virus? A preliminary lab study suggests it's possible, and researchers are eager to try it in people. When tested in human tissues in the laboratory, the drug "works beautifully" to prevent HIV from destroying key cells of the immune system.
An international research team has produced a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from a toe bone found in 2010 by Russian archaeologists. The genome will allow detailed insights into the relationships and population history of the Neanderthals and other extinct hominin groups.
New collaborative work from computational biologists in Massachusetts and California combines computational and experimental approaches to identify biologically meaningful RNA folds. The work could open the door to a better understanding of RNA machinery, which includes the ribosome, microRNAs and riboswitches, and long noncoding RNAs whose diverse functions are only beginning to be understood.