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Optogenetic toolkit goes multicolor

February 10, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.  

Targeted Healing of the Immune System

February 9, 2014 10:00 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

In the U.S. about 12,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer a year. Out of these women, about 4,500 progress into invasive cervical cancer or the end stage of the disease. This leaves about 8,000 women a year in the U.S. that are cured through existing standard of care treatment: surgery or chemotherapy/radiation. However, chemotherapy/radiation have terrible side effects in some cases.

Key photosynthetic substance present on Earth before atmospheric oxygen

February 7, 2014 11:19 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers led by Virginia Tech and Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists has discovered that a regulatory process that turns on photosynthesis in plants at daybreak likely developed on Earth in ancient, methane-producing microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available. The research opens new scientific areas in the fields of evolutionary biology and microbiology.

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Doctor diagnoses man with help from TV's "House"

February 7, 2014 11:08 am | by Maria Cheng - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

If you're unlucky enough to be stricken with a rare medical condition, you'd better hope your doctor watches the right television show. That was the lesson for one German man with severe heart failure and a puzzling mix of symptoms including fever, blindness, deafness and enlarged lymph nodes, which baffled doctors for months.

The clean, green gas of home

February 7, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. synthetic biologist Ramon Gonzalez sees a near future in which Americans get enough clean transportation fuel from natural gas to help make the nation energy independent. As a program director with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, he’s in a position to help make it happen.  

New insight into an emerging genome-editing tool

February 7, 2014 7:53 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have produced the first detailed look at the 3-D structure of the Cas9 enzyme and how it partners with guide RNA to interact with target DNA. The results should enhance Cas9’s value and versatility as a genome-editing tool.

Can Western Blots Be Trusted?

February 6, 2014 3:26 pm | by Ning Liu, Senior Product Manager, Laboratory Separation Div., Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., Hercules, Calif. | Articles | Comments

In an editorial cartoon that appeared in a recent issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, a surgeon wields a scalpel over his patient. The caption reads: “Just a little nip here and there. We don’t want it to look like it’s had any work done.” The catch? The patient is a western blot, and the doctor is presumably making his patient look presentable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Cell Culture Automation: Critical for Cell Therapies and Drug Development

February 6, 2014 3:08 pm | by Kristina Klette, Don Janezic and Bobby Chavli, Hamilton Robotics, Reno, Nev. | Articles | Comments

Stem cell research has been breaking ground in new application areas over the past few years, and it’s poised for even greater growth as more companies and organizations realize the potential. In the next decade, cell-based therapies will become increasingly common for cancer, immunological disorders, cardiac failure and other conditions.

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Automated Strategy for Immuno-MS Sample Preparation

February 6, 2014 2:56 pm | by Brian Feild, Biotech Product Manager, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Columbia, Md. | Articles | Comments

Progress often requires change. For protein-based diagnostics, multiplexed assays and detection of protein isoforms will drive the adoption of a new strategy for diagnostic testing, called immuno-MS. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) have become the standard for antibody-based diagnostic tests in clinical settings. ELISAs provide specific detection of biomarkers through use of antibodies which target specific epitopes on antigens.

Automated Pre-formulation Viscosity Screening of Biological Products

February 6, 2014 1:38 pm | by Dr. Lisa Newey-Keane, Biopharmaceutical Portfolio Manager, Malvern Instruments | Articles | Comments

As interest and investment in biopharmaceuticals grows, the pressure to innovate and rapidly deliver new therapies increases. While many avenues may be pursued, the high cost of developing biological molecules increases the need to advance only those therapies with the greatest likelihood of becoming manufacturable, efficacious, safe and profitable products.

Improved Flow Cytometry for More Powerful Cell Analysis

February 6, 2014 1:05 pm | by Jessica Reed, Product Manager, EMD Millipore, Billercia, Mass. | Articles | Comments

The benefits of flow cytometry are well known. The popular technique allows researchers to explore data on a cell-by-cell basis, as opposed to other analysis methods which only offer population-based or averaged information. In addition, flow cytometry can give users absolute percentages of what each marker or dye is reporting.

Pinpointing the brain’s arbitrator

February 6, 2014 8:30 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

We tend to be creatures of habit. In fact, the human brain has a learning system devoted to guiding us through routine, or habitual, behaviors. At the same time, the brain has a separate goal-directed system for the actions we undertake only after careful consideration of the consequences. We switch between the two systems as needed. But how does the brain know which system to give control to at any given moment? Enter The Arbitrator.

A microchip for metastasis

February 6, 2014 8:09 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer experience skeletal metastasis, in which cancer cells migrate from a primary tumor into bone. While scientists are attempting to better understand metastasis in general, not much is known about how and why certain cancers spread to specific organs. Now researchers have developed a 3-D microfluidic platform that mimics the spread of breast cancer cells into a bone-like environment.

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Inner workings of a cellular nanomotor revealed

February 5, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Our cells produce thousands of proteins, but more than one-third of these proteins can fulfill their function only after migrating to the outside of the cell. While it is known that protein migration occurs with the help of various “nanomotors” that push proteins out of the cell, little is known about their precise mechanical functioning. New research reveals the inner workings of one such nanomotor, called SecA, with new clarity.

Battelle to run CDC’s biological repository

February 5, 2014 9:07 am | News | Comments

In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) building on the outskirts of Atlanta, large metal vats are filled with a frozen array of specimens such as blood and DNA, many of them irreplaceable. Battelle has been awarded a five-year, $12.6 million contract to help manage this important biological repository, which contains 12 million biological samples.

How a shape-shifting DNA-repair machine fights cancer

February 4, 2014 10:44 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Maybe you’ve seen the movies or played with toy Transformers, those shape-shifting machines that morph in response to whatever challenge they face. It turns out that DNA-repair machines in your cells use a similar approach to fight cancer and other diseases, according to research led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Genetic function discovered that could offer new avenue to cancer therapies

February 4, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered a genetic function that helps one of the most important “tumor suppressor” genes to do its job and prevent cancer. Finding ways to maintain or increase the effectiveness of this gene—called Grp1-associated scaffold protein, or Grasp—could offer an important new avenue for human cancer therapies, scientists said.

Capturing ultra-sharp images of multiple cell components at once

February 3, 2014 10:32 am | News | Comments

A new microscopy method could enable scientists to generate snapshots of dozens of different biomolecules at once in a single human cell, a team from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported in Nature Methods. Such images could shed light on complex cellular pathways and potentially lead to new ways to diagnose disease, track its prognosis or monitor the effectiveness of therapies at a cell level.

A quicker, cheaper way to detect staph in the body

February 3, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Chances are you won’t know you’ve got a staph infection until the test results come in, days after the symptoms first appear. But what if your physician could identify the infection much more quickly and without having to take a biopsy and ship it off for analysis? Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa may have found a way.

Cell cycle speed is key to making aging cells young again

February 3, 2014 8:22 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A fundamental axiom of biology used to be that cell fate is a one-way street—once a cell commits to becoming muscle, skin or blood it always remains muscle, skin or blood cell. That belief was upended in the past decade when a Japanese scientist introduced four simple factors into skin cells and returned them to an embryonic-like state, capable of becoming of almost any cell type in the body.

Researchers pinpoint neural circuitry that promotes stress-induced anxiety

February 3, 2014 8:01 am | by Katie Neith, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 18% of American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Previous studies of anxiety in the brain have focused on the amygdala, an area known to play a role in fear. But a team of researchers had a hunch that understanding a different brain area, the lateral septum (LS), could provide more clues into how the brain processes anxiety.

Report: Childhood cancer cases up, but deaths down

January 31, 2014 11:08 am | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A new report says childhood cancer cases continue to increase, but death rates have fallen by half. The American Cancer Society report—released Friday—is being called one of the most comprehensive looks at the types of cancer that most commonly affect children and adolescents.

A detailed look at HIV in action

January 31, 2014 9:45 am | by Katie Neith. California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.

Weapon fights drug-resistant tumors

January 31, 2014 9:16 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cancer drugs that recruit antibodies from the body’s own immune system to help kill tumors have shown much promise in treating several types of cancer. However, after initial success, the tumors often return. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals a way to combat these recurrent tumors with a drug that makes them more vulnerable to the antibody treatment.

Zebra fish fins help researchers gain insight into bone regeneration

January 31, 2014 9:05 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon biologists say they have opened the window on the natural process of bone regeneration in zebra fish, and that the insights they gained could be used to advance therapies for bone fractures and disease. Their work shows that two molecular pathways work in concert to allow adult zebra fish to perfectly replace bones lost upon fin amputation.

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