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How brain waves guide memory formation

February 23, 2015 12:11 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our brains generate a constant hum of activity: As neurons fire, they produce brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. Long thought to be merely a byproduct of neuron activity, recent studies suggest that these waves may play a critical role in communication between different parts of the brain. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists adds to that evidence.

Motor proteins prefer slow, steady movement

February 23, 2015 10:43 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

It takes at least two motor proteins to tango, according to Rice Univ. scientists who discovered the workhorses that move cargo in cells are highly sensitive to the proximity of their peers. The study suggests that the collective behavior of motor proteins like kinesins keeps cellular transport systems robust by favoring slow and steady over maximum movement.

How T cells cause inflammation during infections

February 23, 2015 8:08 am | by Susan Griffith, Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Case Western Reserve Univ. dental researcher Pushpa Pandiyan has discovered a new way to model how infection-fighting T cells cause inflammation in mice. The hope is that the discovery can lead to new therapies or drugs that jump-start weakened or poorly functioning immune systems. Pandiyan believes the process could lead to identifying and testing new drugs to replace antifungal medicines.

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Virus-cutting enzyme helps bacteria remember a threat

February 20, 2015 12:33 pm | by Wynne Parry, Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteria may not have brains, but they do have memories, at least when it comes to viruses that attack them. Many bacteria have a molecular immune system which allows these microbes to capture and retain pieces of viral DNA that they have encountered in the past, in order to recognize and destroy it when it shows up again.

Researchers find surprising trigger of new brain cell growth

February 20, 2015 11:52 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered that the human brain can produce new neurons, but exactly how those cells are produced and what purpose they serve are not well understood. Now a study by Yale Univ. researchers shows that key developmental factors that control the formation of blood vessels are also necessary for activating brain stem cells.

New insight into fragile protein linked to cancer, autism

February 20, 2015 11:05 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

In recent years, scientists have found a surprising a connection between some people with autism and certain cancer patients: They have mutations in the same gene, one that codes for a protein critical for normal cellular health. Now scientists have reported in Biochemistry that the defects reduce the activity and stability of the protein. Their findings could someday help lead to new treatments for both sets of patients.

Evolving a bigger brain with human DNA

February 20, 2015 10:54 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The size of the human brain expanded dramatically during the course of evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities to use abstract language and do complex math. But how did the human brain get larger than that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, if almost all of our genes are the same?

Simple catalyst helps to construct complex biological scaffolds

February 18, 2015 11:01 am | by Technical Univ. Munich | News | Comments

Terpenes and their derivatives exert important biological and pharmaceutical functions. Starting out from a few basic building blocks nature elegantly builds up complex structures. Chemically particularly challenging are bridged ring systems such as eucalyptol. Chemists at the Technical Univ. Munich have developed a catalyst that initiates the formation of such compounds.

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Epigenomics of Alzheimer’s disease progression

February 18, 2015 9:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components—nature and nurture—seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in Nature.

New insights into 3-D genome organization, genetic variability

February 18, 2015 8:03 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

While genomics is the study of all of the genes in a cell or organism, epigenomics is the study of all the genomic add-ons and changes that influence gene expression but aren’t encoded in the DNA sequence. A variety of new epigenomic information is now available in a collection of studies published in Nature by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap Epigenomics Program.

Molecular inhibitor breaks cycle that leads to Alzheimer’s

February 17, 2015 11:02 am | by Tom Kirk, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A molecule that can block the progress of Alzheimer's disease at a crucial stage in its development has been identified by researchers in a new study, raising the prospect that more such molecules may now be found. The report shows that a molecular chaperone can play the role of an "inhibitor" part-way through the molecular process that's thought to cause Alzheimer's.

More infectious diseases emerging because of climate change

February 17, 2015 9:03 am | by Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change, says a noted zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln.  

Scientists shed light on controversial theory of protein structure

February 13, 2015 8:54 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A team of chemists, biochemists and mathematicians at the Univ. of Bristol have published a paper which explores how protein structures are stabilized. There are many forces that hold together the 3-D, functional structures of proteins. Despite considerable effort, understanding of these forces is still quite rudimentary.

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Bacterial armor holds clues for self-assembling nanostructures

February 13, 2015 8:35 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex 2- and 3-D structures.

Shedding light on structure of key cellular “gatekeeper”

February 13, 2015 8:22 am | by Jon Nalick, Caltech | News | Comments

Facing a challenge akin to solving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while blindfolded, and without touching the pieces, many structural biochemists thought it would be impossible to determine the atomic structure of a massive cellular machine called the nuclear pore complex, which is vital for cell survival. But after 10 years of attacking the problem, a team recently solved almost a third of the puzzle.

Cell's Own Mechanism to Blocking Flu

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Viruses are masters of outsourcing, entrusting their fundamental function– reproduction– to the host cells they infect. But it turns out this highly economical approach also creates vulnerability. Researchers have found an unexpected way the immune system exploits the flu virus’ dependence on its host’s machinery to create new viruses capable of spreading infection.  

Beavers Inspire Method to Aid Tooth Enamel

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Beavers don't brush their teeth, and they don't drink fluoridated water, but a new study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron. This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride.

Squid Edit Their Gene Code As They Go

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by American Friends of Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

Research that explored RNA editing in the Doryteuthis pealieii squid found it to be the first example of an animal that can edit its own genetic makeup on-the-fly to modify most of its proteins, enabling adjustments to its immediate surroundings.

Oil Drilling Banned in Walrus-rich Area

February 12, 2015 7:00 am | by Associated Press, Dan Joling | News | Comments

A plateau on the Arctic Ocean floor, where thousands of Pacific walrus gather to feed and raise pups, has received new protections from the Obama administration that recognize it as a biological hot spot and mark it off-limits to future oil drilling. But the announcement triggered an uproar from Alaska leaders, angry that the federal government was making a decision that they said would harm the state's economy.

Robotic Garden Seeks Light to Grow Soybeans

February 12, 2015 7:00 am | by Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Professors have designed a robotic platform, soybot, which allows indoor plants to search for light to sustain nourishment. As each soybot moves, the robot transmits both sensor data and positional coordinates to a visualization window in its gallery space.

Dead Zones Aid Oyster Disease

February 12, 2015 7:00 am | by Smithsonian | News | Comments

In shallow waters around the world, where nutrient pollution runs high, oxygen levels can plummet to nearly zero at night. Oysters living in these zones are far more likely to pick up the lethal Dermo disease.

Engineers put the “squeeze” on human stem cells

February 10, 2015 2:10 pm | by Ioana Patringenaru, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

After using optical tweezers to squeeze a tiny bead attached to the outside of a human stem cell, researchers now know how mechanical forces can trigger a key signaling pathway in the cells. The squeeze helps to release calcium ions stored inside the cells and opens up channels in the cell membrane that allow the ions to flow into the cells, according to the study led by Univ. of California, San Diego bioengineer Yingxiao Wang.

DNA “cage” could improve nanopore technology

February 10, 2015 10:51 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Despite having a diameter tens of thousands of times smaller than a human hair, nanopores could be the next big thing in DNA sequencing. By zipping DNA molecules through these tiny holes, scientists hope to one day read off genetic sequences in the blink of an eye. Now, researchers from Brown Univ. have taken the potential of nanopore technology one step further.

Serotonin-deficient brains more vulnerable to social stress

February 10, 2015 8:48 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Mice genetically deficient in serotonin, a crucial brain chemical implicated in clinical depression, are more vulnerable than their normal littermates to social stressors, according to a Duke Univ. study. Following exposure to stress, the serotonin-deficient mice also did not respond to a standard antidepressant, fluoxetine (Prozac), which works by boosting serotonin transmission between neighboring neurons.

Controlling genes with light

February 9, 2015 11:57 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have devised a method to activate genes in any specific location or pattern in a lab dish with the flip of a light switch by crossing a bacterium’s viral defense system with a flower’s response to sunlight. With the ability to use light to activate genes in specific locations, researchers can better study genes’ functions.

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