Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2, it is inert and useless to most organisms.
Rice Univ. researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, a major component of bone and the fibrous tissues that support cells and hold organs together. Discovering its secrets may lead to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering and cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.
Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful.
Like a slumbering dragon, HIV can lay dormant in a person’s cells for years, evading medical treatments only to wake up and strike at a later time, quickly replicating itself and destroying the immune system. Scientists at the Salk Institute have uncovered a new protein that participates in active HIV replication. The new protein, called Ssu72, is part of a switch used to awaken HIV-1 from its slumber.
In early drug discovery, you need a starting point. In a new research paper published in PLOS-Neglected Tropical Diseases, a team of researchers present hundreds of such starting points for potentially treating Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, a deadly disease that affects thousands of people annually.
Adherent cells, the kind that form the architecture of all multicellular organisms, are engineered with precise forces that allow them to move around and stick to things. When these cells are put into a petri dish with a variety of substrates they can sense the differences in the surfaces and they will “crawl” toward the stiffest one. Chemists have devised a method using DNA-based tension probes to measure and map these phenomena.
Bio-engineers are working on the development of biological computers: biological material that can be integrated into cells to change their functions. Researchers in Europe have now developed a biological circuit that controls the activity of individual sensor components using internal "timer". This circuit prevents a sensor from being active when not required by the system; when required, it can be activated via a control signal.
Though neurobiologists have tried for half a century to better understand the brains of jumping spiders, no one has succeeded. The liquid in spiders’ bodies is pressurized, and they move with hydraulic pressure and muscles. But with a new technique using a tiny tungsten recording electrode, researchers have made recordings of neurons associated with visual perception inside the poppy seed-sized brain the spider.
Customized genome editing has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture. Now, in a paper published in Molecular Cell, North Carolina State Univ. researchers and colleagues examine six key molecular elements that help drive this genome editing system, which is known as CRISPR-Cas.
Scientists think of CD8 T cells as long-lived cells that become tuned to fight just one pathogen, but a new study finds that once CD8 T cells fight one pathogen, they also join the body’s “innate” immune system, ready to answer the calls of the cytokine signals that are set off by a wide variety of infections.
New medications created by pharmaceutical companies have helped millions of Americans alleviate pain and suffering from their medical conditions. However, the drug creation process often misses many side effects that kill at least 100,000 patients a year, according to Nature.
Rice Univ. bioengineers have found new evidence of a possible link between diabetes and the hardening of heart valves. A Rice laboratory, in collaboration with the Univ. of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, discovered that the interstitial cells that turn raw materials into heart valves need just the right amount of nutrients for proper metabolic function.
Federal health officials on Monday issued new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients. Officials have been scrambling to come up with new advice for protective gear since two Dallas nurses became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the U.S.
DNA has garnered attention for its potential as a programmable material platform that could spawn entire new and revolutionary nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology and more. Researchers have been working to master the ability to coax DNA molecules to self-assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology dreams.
While megakaryocytes are best known for producing platelets that heal wounds, these "mega" cells found in bone marrow also play a critical role in regulating stem cells according to new research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The study is the first to show that hematopoietic stem cells (the parent cells) can be directly controlled by their own progeny (megakaryocytes).
Ebola fears began to ease for some Monday as a monitoring period passed for those who had close contact with a victim of the disease and after a cruise ship scare ended with the boat returning to port and a laboratory worker on board testing negative for the virus. Federal officials meanwhile ramped up readiness to deal with future cases.
Scientists perform genome sequences because want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. However, sequencing a complete genome still costs around $1,000, and sequencing hundreds of individuals would be costly. In two recent review papers, scientists discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups, or pool sequencing, can be an efficient and cost-effective approach.
Scientists have used computer simulations to show how bacteria are able to destroy antibiotics, a breakthrough which will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future. Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol focused on the role of enzymes in the bacteria, which split the structure of the antibiotic and stop it working, making the bacteria resistant.
Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.
When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers invented the field of biological accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in the late 1980s, the process of preparing the samples was time-consuming and cumbersome. Physicists and biomedical researchers used torches, vacuum lines, special chemistries and high degrees of skill to convert biological samples into graphite targets that could then be run through the AMS system.
Researchers are exploring the usefulness of ultrasound imaging to study dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulging of the aorta that is usually fatal when it ruptures and for which there is no effective medical treatment. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 15,000 annually.
Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.
Researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease, however the basis for this link is unclear.
The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.
Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study. The rock-dwelling microbes represent a previously unrecognized biological sink for methane and as a result could reshape scientists' understanding of where this greenhouse gas is being consumed in subseafloor habitats.