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Scientists create first living organism that transmits unnatural DNA “letters”

May 8, 2014 12:41 pm | News | Comments

Scripps Research Institute scientists have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters,” or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied.

Researchers identify extent of new tick-borne infection

May 8, 2014 11:32 am | by Michael Greenwood, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The frequency of a new tick-borne infection that shares many similarities with Lyme disease, and a description of the antibody test used to test individuals for evidence of the infection, have been reported for the first time by researchers at the Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Experimental antibody shows early promise for treatment of childhood tumor

May 8, 2014 11:14 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

 Tumors shrank or disappeared and disease progression was temporarily halted in 15 children with advanced neuroblastoma enrolled in a safety study of an experimental antibody produced at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Four patients are still alive after more than two-and-a-half years and without additional treatment.

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Health insurers just say no to marijuana coverage

May 8, 2014 10:27 am | by Tom Murphy - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Patients who use medical marijuana for pain and other chronic symptoms can take an unwanted hit: Insurers don't cover the treatment, which costs as much as $1,000 a month. Once the drug of choice for hippies and rebellious teens, marijuana in recent years has gained more mainstream acceptance for its ability to boost appetite, dull pain and reduce seizures in everyone from epilepsy to cancer patients.

A lab in your pocket

May 8, 2014 8:33 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

When you get sick, your physician may take a sample of your blood, send it to the laboratory and wait for results. In the near future, however, doctors may be able to run those tests almost instantly on a piece of plastic about the size of credit card. These labs-on-a-chip would not only be quick—results are available in minutes—but also inexpensive and portable.

Advanced Photon Source to remain leader in protein structure research for years

May 7, 2014 2:19 pm | by Brian Grabowski, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

No x-ray facility in the world has supported more protein structure research and characterized more proteins than the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. Soon this 2/3-mile-in-circumference x-ray instrument will get a boost in efficiency that likely will translate into a big boon for the discovery of new pharmaceuticals and the control of genetic disorders and other diseases, as well as advancing the biotech industry.

Where DNA’s copy machine pauses, cancer could be next

May 6, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

From time to time, genetic codes aren’t copied and collated properly, leaving gaps or breaks. A comprehensive mapping of these “fragile sites” in yeast by a team of Duke Univ. researchers shows that errors appear in specific areas of the genome where the DNA-copying machinery is slowed or stalled. The study could shed light on abnormalities seen in solid tumors.

Soy sauce molecule may unlock drug therapy for HIV patients

May 6, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

For HIV patients being treated with anti-AIDS medications, resistance to drug therapy regimens is commonplace. Often, patients develop resistance to first-line drug therapies, such as Tenofovir, and are forced to adopt more potent medications. Virologists at the Univ. of Missouri now are testing the next generation of medications that stop HIV from spreading, and are using a molecule related to flavor enhancers found in soy sauce.

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Two-lock box delivers cancer therapy

May 6, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have designed a tunable virus that works like a safe deposit box. It takes two keys to open it and release its therapeutic cargo. The Rice team developed an adeno-associated virus (AAV) that unlocks only in the presence of two selected proteases, enzymes that cut up other proteins for disposal. Because certain proteases are elevated at tumor sites, the viruses can be designed to target and destroy the cancer cells.

Spread of polio now a world health emergency

May 5, 2014 10:29 am | by Maria Cheng - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The spread of polio is an international public health emergency that could grow in coming months and ultimately unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate the crippling disease, the World Health Organization said Monday. The agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an "extraordinary event" requiring a coordinated international response.

Experimental drug prolongs life span in mice

May 2, 2014 11:30 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have newly identified a protein’s key role in cell and physiological aging and have developed—in collaboration with Tohoku Univ. in Japan—an experimental drug that inhibits the protein’s effect and prolonged the lifespan in a mouse model of accelerated aging. The rapidly aging mice fed the experimental drug lived more than four times longer than a control group.

Scientists figure out staying power of HIV-fighting enzyme

May 2, 2014 11:24 am | News | Comments

Johns Hopkins Univ. biochemists have figured out what is needed to activate and sustain the virus-fighting activity of an enzyme found in CD4+ T cells, the human immune cells infected by HIV. The discovery could launch a more effective strategy for preventing the spread of HIV in the body with drugs targeting this enzyme, they say.

Undersea warfare: Viruses hijack deep-sea bacteria at hydrothermal vents

May 2, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

Microbiologists have recently studied unseen armies of viruses and bacteria as they wage war at hydrothermal vents more than a mile beneath the ocean's surface. They have found that viruses infect bacterial cells to obtain tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells. Instead of stealing this bounty, the viruses force the bacteria to burn their valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate.

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Delving deep into the brain

May 2, 2014 8:03 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Launched in 2013, the national BRAIN Initiative aims to revolutionize our understanding of cognition by mapping the activity of every neuron in the human brain, revealing how brain circuits interact to create memories, learn new skills and interpret the world around us. Before that can happen, neuroscientists need new tools that will let them probe the brain more deeply and in greater detail.

Promising agents burst through “superbug” defenses to fight antibiotic resistance

May 1, 2014 10:57 am | News | Comments

In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents that can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off. The report on the promising agents called metallopolymers appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

From morphine to Cipro: History of drug development chronicled

April 30, 2014 9:12 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ.’s Michael Kinch spent his spare time in the last year creating a massive database that encompasses the entire history of drug development in the U.S. In a series of 20 articles scheduled to be published over the next year in Drug Discovery Today, Kinch mines the data and provides historical tidbits about the history of drug development and reveals trends on how—or whether—we will get new medicines in the future.

Unique floating lab showcases “aliens of the sea”

April 30, 2014 7:38 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Leonid Moroz, neurobiologist at the Univ. of Florida, is on a quest to decode the genomic blueprints of fragile marine life in real time, on board the ship where they were caught. His ocean-going laboratory contains a genome sequencing machine secured to a tabletop. Genetic data is beamed via satellite to a supercomputer at the Univ. of Florida, which analyzes the results in a few hours and sends it back to the boat.

Resolving the structure of a single biological molecule

April 28, 2014 12:48 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have applied “soft-touch” atomic force microscopy to large, irregularly arranged and individual DNA molecules. In this form of microscopy, a miniature probe is used to feel the surface of the molecules one by one, rather than seeing them. In this way they have determined the structure of DNA from measurements on a single molecule, and found that the structure is more irregular than previously thought.

Researchers sequence genome of tsetse fly

April 28, 2014 8:09 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

An international consortium of researchers, including an entomologist from North Carolina State Univ., sequenced the genetic blueprint, or genome, of the tsetse fly, one of the world’s most dangerous vectors of human and livestock disease. Tsetse flies (Glossina morsitans) are found in Africa, feed exclusively on blood and transmit sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis.

Scientists want to breed fish to be better biters

April 25, 2014 12:45 pm | by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press | News | Comments

In a lifetime of fishing for winter steelhead, Oregon's Stan Steele has seen it get harder and harder to hook into hatchery-bred fish. A growing body of evidence is showing that his experience is not a fish story, but the result of natural selection. Wild fish retain the aggression that lands them on the end of a hook better than hatchery fish. Prodded by fishermen, scientists will now try to breed the bite back into hatchery steelhead.

Scientists find connection between gene mutation, key symptoms of autism

April 25, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

Scientists have known that abnormal brain growth is associated with autism spectrum disorder. However, the relationship between the two has not been well understood. Now, scientists have shown that mutations in a specific gene that is disrupted in some individuals with autism results in too much growth throughout the brain.

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

April 24, 2014 4:22 pm | by Anzar Abbas, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative way. A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. have shown in a study that cells can grow normally without a crucial component needed to duplicate their DNA.

Scientists find new point of attack on HIV for vaccine development

April 24, 2014 12:45 pm | News | Comments

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute working with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative has discovered a new vulnerable site on the HIV virus. The newly identified site can be attacked by human antibodies in a way that neutralizes the infectivity of a wide variety of HIV strains.

Animal study suggests some astronauts are at risk for cognitive impairment

April 24, 2014 11:57 am | News | Comments

Johns Hopkins Univ. scientists report that rats exposed to high-energy particles, simulating conditions astronauts would face on a long-term deep space mission, show lapses in attention and slower reaction times, even when the radiation exposure is in extremely low dose ranges.

Study: Gene therapy may boost cochlear implants

April 24, 2014 7:45 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Australian researchers are trying a novel way to boost the power of cochlear implants: They used the technology to beam gene therapy into the ears of deaf animals and found the combination improved hearing. The approach reported Wednesday isn't ready for human testing, but it's part of growing research into ways to let users of cochlear implants experience richer, more normal sound.

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