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Scientists call for antibody “bar code” system to follow Human Genome Project

February 4, 2015 4:05 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.

Microscopy technique allows mapping protein synthesis in living tissues, animals

February 4, 2015 3:06 pm | by Jessica Guenzel, Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Columbia Univ. have made a significant step toward visualizing complex protein metabolism in living systems with high resolution and minimum disturbance, a longstanding goal in the scientific community. In a recent study, the research team has reported a light microscopy method to image where the new proteins are produced and where the old proteins are degraded inside living tissues and animals.

How the brain ignores distractions

February 4, 2015 10:18 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When we concentrate on something, we also engage in the unsung, parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things. A new study describes how the brain may achieve such “optimal inattention.” With this knowledge, scientists at Brown Univ. hope they can harness our power to ignore.

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Record keeping helps bacteria’s immune system fight invaders

February 4, 2015 10:01 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments undertaken at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

Splash down

February 4, 2015 8:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Farmers have long noted a correlation between rainstorms and disease outbreaks among plants. Fungal parasites known as “rust” can grow particularly rampant following rain events, eating away at the leaves of wheat and potentially depleting crop harvests. While historical weather records suggest rainfall may scatter rust and other pathogens throughout a plant population, the mechanism by which this occurs has not been explored, until now.

Getting yeast to pump up the protein production

February 3, 2015 11:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From manufacturing life-saving biopharmaceuticals to producing energy-efficient biofuels, the cost-effective production of proteins will be essential to revolutionizing the future of health care and energy. For years, scientists have turned to yeast as a quick and inexpensive way to mass-produce proteins for a variety of useful products. Now Northwestern Univ. has found a way to gather more protein without making the yeast produce more.

How the brain controls robotic grasping tools

February 3, 2015 8:01 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | News | Comments

Grasping an object involves a complex network of brain functions. First, visual cues are processed in specialized areas of the brain. Then, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands to reach for and manipulate the desired object. New findings suggest that the cerebellum may play a critical role. Findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

Cyanobacterium found in algae collection holds promise for biotech applications

February 2, 2015 10:53 am | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Cyanobacteria, bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis, are of considerable interest as bio-factories, organisms that could be harnessed to generate a range of industrially useful products. Part of their appeal is that they can grow on sunlight and carbon dioxide alone and thus could contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a petrochemical-based economy.

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Why moderate drinking might be healthy for some

February 2, 2015 10:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with health benefits in some, but not all, studies. Researchers at the Yale Univ. School of Medicine may have found an explanation, in part, for why non-smokers might benefit from a glass of wine.

Walking on ice takes more than brains

February 2, 2015 7:54 am | by The Salk Institute | News | Comments

Walking across an icy parking lot in winter—and remaining upright—takes intense concentration. But a new discovery suggests that much of the balancing act that our bodies perform when faced with such a task happens unconsciously, thanks to a cluster of neurons in our spinal cord that function as a “mini-brain” to integrate sensory information and make the necessary adjustments to our muscles so that we don’t slip and fall.

In a role reversal, RNAs proofread themselves

February 2, 2015 7:42 am | by Jaclyn Jansen, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Building a protein is a lot like a game of telephone: information is passed along from one messenger to another, creating the potential for errors every step of the way. There are separate, specialized enzymatic machines that proofread at each step, ensuring that the instructions encoded in our DNA are faithfully translated into proteins.

Complex environments push “brain” evolution

February 2, 2015 7:31 am | by Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Little animations trying to master a computer game are teaching neuroscience researchers how the brain evolves when faced with difficult tasks. Neuroscientists have programmed animated critters that they call "animats." The critters have a rudimentary neural system made of eight nodes: two sensors, two motors and four internal computers that coordinate sensation, movement and memory.

Tasting light

January 30, 2015 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Human taste receptors are specialized to distinguish several distinct compounds: sugars taste sweet, salts taste salty, and acidic compounds taste sour. Now a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that the worm Caenorhabditis elegans has taken its powers of detection a step further: The worm can taste hydrogen peroxide, triggering it to stop eating the potentially dangerous substance.

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Why do zebras have stripes?

January 30, 2015 8:53 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Videos | Comments

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes. A team of life scientists led by Univ. of California, Los Angeles has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

DNA nanoswitches reveal how life’s molecules connect

January 30, 2015 8:17 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

A complex interplay of molecular components governs most aspects of biological sciences: healthy organism development, disease progression and drug efficacy are all dependent on the way life's molecules interact in the body. Understanding these biomolecular interactions is critical for the discovery of new therapeutics and diagnostics to treat diseases, but currently requires scientists to have access to expensive laboratory equipment.

New clues about a brain protein with high affinity for valium

January 29, 2015 4:18 pm | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Valium, one of the best known antianxiety drugs, produces its calming effects by binding with a particular protein in the brain. But the drug has an almost equally strong affinity for a completely different protein. Understanding this secondary interaction might offer clues about Valium's side effects and point the way to more effective drugs.

Genetically engineered antibodies show enhanced HIV-fighting abilities

January 29, 2015 4:06 pm | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Capitalizing on a new insight into HIV's strategy for evading antibodies, Caltech researchers have developed antibody-based molecules that are more than 100 times better than our bodies' own defenses at binding to and neutralizing HIV, when tested in vitro. The work suggests a novel approach that could be used to engineer more effective HIV-fighting drugs.

Neutron beams reveal how two potential pieces of Parkinson’s puzzle fit

January 29, 2015 11:44 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

To understand diseases like Parkinson’s, the tiniest of puzzles may hold big answers. That’s why a team including scientists from NIST have determined how two potentially key pieces of the Parkinson’s puzzle fit together, in an effort to reveal how the still poorly understood illness develops and affects its victims.

X-ray study reveals division of labor in cell health protein

January 29, 2015 11:24 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Researchers working in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered that a key protein for cell health, which has recently been linked to diabetes, cancer and other diseases, can multitask by having two identical protein parts divide labor. The TH enzyme, short for transhydrogenase, is a crucial protein for most forms of life. In humans and other higher organisms, it works within mitochondria.

Why upper motor neurons degenerate in ALS

January 29, 2015 8:44 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a fatal neuromuscular disorder marked by the degeneration of motor neurons, which causes muscle weakness and impaired speaking, swallowing and breathing that leads to paralysis and death.

Ancient Israeli skull may document migration from Africa

January 28, 2015 1:17 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Long ago, humans left their evolutionary cradle in Africa and passed through the Middle East on their way to Europe. Now scientists have found the first fossil remains that appear to document that journey, a partial skull from an Israeli cave. The skull dates from around 55,000 years ago, fitting into the period when scientists had thought the migrants inhabited the area.

New mechanism unlocked for evolution of green fluorescent protein

January 28, 2015 10:51 am | by Jenny Green, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

A primary challenge in the biosciences is to understand the way major evolutionary changes in nature are accomplished. Sometimes the route turns out to be very simple. A group of scientists showed, for the first time, that a hinge migration mechanism, driven solely by long-range dynamic motions, can be the key for evolution of a green-to-red photoconvertible phenotype in a green fluorescent protein.

Ribose-seq identifies, locates ribonucleotides in genomic DNA

January 28, 2015 10:10 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Ribonucleotides, units of RNA, can become embedded in genomic DNA during processes such as DNA replication and repair, affecting the stability of the genome by contributing to DNA fragility and mutability. Scientists have known about the presence of ribonucleotides in DNA, but until now had not been able to determine exactly what they are and where they are located in the DNA sequences.

Man trumps dog: Earlier assumption about BPA exposure confirmed

January 28, 2015 8:18 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Coating the mouth with BPA-containing food does not lead to higher than expected levels of BPA in blood, according to a new study. The study concludes that oral exposure does not create a risk for high exposures. BPA, also known as bisphenol A, is used to make some plastics and to seal canned food containers against bacterial contamination. Food, which picks up trace amounts of BPA from packaging, is the major source of human exposure.

Synthetic amino acid enables safe, new biotechnology solutions

January 26, 2015 12:13 pm | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists from Yale Univ. have devised a way to ensure genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be safely confined in the environment, overcoming a major obstacle to widespread use of GMOs in agriculture, energy production, waste management and medicine.

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