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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.

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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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Researchers sequence world’s first butterfly bacteria, find surprises

January 31, 2014 7:54 am | News | Comments

For the first time ever, a team has sequenced the internal bacterial makeup of the three major life stages of a butterfly species, a project that showed some surprising events occur during metamorphosis. The results showed the internal bacterial diversity of the butterfly was halved when it morphed from the caterpillar to the chrysalis, or pupal stage, then doubled after the pupae turned into active adult butterflies.

Antibiotic “smart bomb” can target specific strains of bacteria

January 30, 2014 10:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Neanderthal lineages excavated from modern human genomes

January 30, 2014 8:51 am | by Leila Gray, UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine | News | Comments

A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new approach applied to analyzing whole-genome sequencing data from 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20% of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

January 30, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.

Findings point to potential treatment for virus causing childhood illnesses

January 30, 2014 7:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a potential treatment for a viral infection that causes potentially fatal brain swelling and paralysis in children. The findings also point to possible treatments for related viruses including those that cause common cold symptoms. The virus, called enterovirus 71 (EV71), causes yearly outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease in Southeast Asian countries, including China and Malaysia.

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Stress turns ordinary cells pluripotent

January 29, 2014 12:20 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Japan have developed a new, surprisingly simple method for creating stem cell. In a pair of reports, the researchers show that ordinary somatic cells from newborn mice can be stripped of their differentiation memory, reverting to a state of pluripotency resembling embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. All that’s needed is a dose of sublethal stress.

Want to get the flu? Volunteers sneeze for science

January 29, 2014 7:31 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Forget being sneezed on: Government scientists are deliberately giving dozens of volunteers the flu by squirting the live virus straight up their noses. It may sound bizarre, but the rare type of research is a step in the quest for better flu vaccines. It turns out that how the body fends off influenza remains something of a mystery.

Researchers open door to new HIV therapy

January 29, 2014 7:29 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

People infected with HIV can stave off the symptoms of AIDS thanks to drug cocktails that mainly target three enzymes produced by the virus, but resistant strains pop up periodically. Researchers have now focused on a fourth protein, Nef, that hijacks host proteins and is essential to HIV’s lethality. By blocking the part of a key host protein to which Nef binds, it may be possible to slow or stop HIV.

Doctors: Too few cancer patients enroll in studies

January 28, 2014 5:08 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

One of every 10 clinical trials for adults with cancer ends prematurely because researchers can't get enough people to test new treatments, scientists report. The surprisingly high rate reveals not just the scope and cost of wasted opportunities that deprive patients of potential advances, but also the extent of barriers such as money, logistics and even the mistaken fear that people won't get the best care if they join these experiments.

Lungs may suffer when certain elements go nano

January 28, 2014 11:40 am | by Linda Fulps, Missouri Science & Technology | News | Comments

More than 2,800 commercially available applications are now based on nanoparticles, but this influx of nanotechnology is not without risks, say researchers at Missouri Univ. of Science and Technology. They have been systematically studying the effects of transition metal oxide nanoparticles on human lung cells and have found that the nanoparticles’ toxicity to the cells increased as they moved right on the periodic table.

Research uncovers historical rise, fall and re-emergence of plague strains

January 28, 2014 9:00 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has discovered that two of the world’s most devastating pandemics, the plague of Justinian and the Black Death, each responsible for killing as many as half the people in Europe, were caused by distinct strains of the same pathogen. Because these plagues were hundreds of years apart, the findings suggest a new strain of bubonic plague could emerge again in humans in the future.

Researchers tune in to protein pairs

January 27, 2014 11:25 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a way to interpret interactions among pairs of task-oriented proteins that relay signals. The goal is to learn how the proteins avoid crosstalk and whether they can be tuned for better performance. Each cell contains thousands of these two-component signaling proteins, which often act as sensors and trigger the cell to act.

Getting a charge from changes in humidity

January 27, 2014 11:15 am | News | Comments

A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

New method increases supply of embryonic stem cells

January 27, 2014 7:57 am | News | Comments

A new method allows for large-scale generation of human embryonic stem cells of high clinical quality. It also allows for production of such cells without destroying any human embryos. The discovery is a big step forward for stem cell research and for the high hopes for replacing damaged cells and thereby curing serious illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Study: Biological donors should have access to own biobank data

January 24, 2014 11:54 am | News | Comments

Databanks containing information and biological materials from individuals are a crucial resource for research, but they are currently accessible only to researchers. In a recent paper published in Science, experts say that donors should have unrestricted access to data derived from their own material and that advanced technology means allowing such access is today a question of will rather than feasibility.

In the brain, timing is everything

January 24, 2014 10:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Suppose you heard the sound of skidding tires, followed by a car crash. The next time you heard such a skid, you might cringe in fear, expecting a crash to follow—suggesting that somehow, your brain had linked those two memories so that a fairly innocuous sound provokes dread. Neuroscientists have now discovered how two neural circuits in the brain work together to control the formation of such time-linked memories.

Scientists reveal why life got big in the Earth’s early oceans

January 24, 2014 9:57 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have examined the earliest communities of large multicellular organisms in the fossil record to help answer this question of why life forms began to get larger about 580 million years ago. The research reveals that an increase in size provided access to nutrient-carrying ocean flow, giving an advantage to multicellular eukaryotes that existed prior to the Cambrian explosion of animal life.

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