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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

New genes spring from non-coding DNA

January 24, 2014 8:58 am | News | Comments

"Where do new genes come from?" is a long-standing question in genetics and evolutionary biology. A new study from researchers at the Univ. of California, Davis, published in Science Express, shows that new genes are created from non-coding DNA more rapidly than expected.

Researchers discover potential drug targets for early onset glaucoma

January 24, 2014 8:18 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Using a novel high-throughput screening process, scientists have, for the first time, identified molecules with the potential to block the accumulation of a toxic eye protein that can lead to early onset of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness. Elevated eye pressure is the main risk factor for optic nerve damage.

Drug discovery potential of natural microbial genomes

January 23, 2014 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, San Diego have developed a new genetic platform that allows efficient production of naturally occurring molecules, and have used it to produce a novel antibiotic compound. Their study, published in PNAS, may open new avenues for natural product discoveries and drug development.

Fur and feathers keep animals warm by scattering light

January 23, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Scientists have wondered why polar bear fur is much more efficient at insulation than what we can develop for our housing. Now, a team has calculated that hairs, due to an unexpected optical mechanism, reflect infrared light and may contribute significant insulating power to the exceptionally warm winter coats of polar bears and other animals.

Better protein capture a boon for drug manufacturers

January 23, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a way to fine tune a process critical to the pharmaceutical industry that could save a lot of time and money. A combination of the Rice technique that provides pinpoint locations for single proteins and a theory that describes those proteins’ interactions with other molecules could widen a bottleneck in the manufacture of drugs by making the process of isolating proteins five times more efficient.  

Seashells inspire new way to preserve bones for archeologists, paleontologists

January 22, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

Recreating the story of humanity’s past by studying ancient bones can hit a snag when they deteriorate, but scientists are now reporting an advance inspired by seashells that can better preserve valuable remains. Their findings, which appear in Langmuir, could have wide-ranging implications for both archeology and paleontology.

3-D imaging provides window into living cells, no dye required

January 22, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Living cells are ready for their close-ups, thanks to a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, 3-D, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures—all with conventional microscopes and white light.

Study hints at therapeutic uses of ecstasy

January 21, 2014 11:10 am | News | Comments

Brian imaging experiments have revealed for the first time how ecstasy produces feelings of euphoria in users. The findings hint at ways that ecstasy, or MDMA, might be useful in the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. MDMA has been a popular recreational drug since the 1980s, but there has been little research on which areas of the brain it affects.

Activation of a single neuron type can trigger eating

January 21, 2014 8:22 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Activation of a single type of neuron in the prefrontal cortex can spur a mouse to eat more—a finding that may pinpoint an elusive mechanism the human brain uses to regulate food intake. The decision to eat is fundamental to an animal’s survival and is regulated in part by evolutionary ancient metabolic processes shared by many animal species.

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