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Biological safety lock for genetically modified organisms

January 22, 2015 1:17 pm | by Stephanie Dutchen, Harvard Medical School | News | Comments

The creation of genetically modified and entirely synthetic organisms continues to generate excitement as well as worry. Such organisms are already churning out insulin and other drug ingredients, helping produce biofuels and teaching scientists about human disease. While the risks can be exaggerated to frightening effect, modified organisms do have the potential to upset natural ecosystems if they were to escape.

Researchers reveal how the mundane can be meaningful, remembered

January 22, 2015 11:36 am | by James Devitt, New York Univ. | News | Comments

It’s not surprising that our memories of highly emotional events, such as 9/11 or the birth of a child, are quite strong. But can these events change our memories of the past? In a study published in Nature, New York Univ. researchers report that emotional learning can lead to the strengthening of older memories.

New analysis explains collagen’s force

January 22, 2015 7:48 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Research combining experimental work and detailed molecular simulations has revealed, for the first time, the complex role that water plays in collagen. The new analysis reveals an important mechanism that had never been observed before: Adding even small amounts of water to, or removing water from, collagen in tendons can generate surprisingly strong forces, as much as 300 times stronger than the forces generated by muscles.

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The ups and downs of the seemingly idle brain

January 21, 2015 9:24 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Even in its quietest moments, the brain is never “off.” Instead, while under anesthesia, during slow-wave sleep, or even amid calm wakefulness, the brain’s cortex maintains a cycle of activity and quiet called “up” and “down” states. A new study by Brown Univ. neuroscientists probed deep into this somewhat mysterious cycle in mice, to learn more about how the mammalian brain accomplishes it.

Flu vaccine 23% effective

January 16, 2015 2:04 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

As predicted, this year's flu vaccine is doing a pretty crummy job. It's only 23% effective, primarily because it doesn't include the bug that is making most people sick, according to a government study released today. That's one of the worst performances in the last decade, since U.S. health officials started routinely tracking how well vaccines work. In the best flu seasons, the vaccines were 50 to 60% effective.

New genetic clues found in fragile X syndrome

January 16, 2015 1:40 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Senior Medical Sciences Writer, Washington Univ., St. Louis | News | Comments

Scientists have gained new insight into fragile X syndrome by studying the case of a person without the disorder, but with two of its classic symptoms. In patients with fragile X, a key gene is completely disabled, eliminating a protein that regulates electrical signals in the brain and causing a host of behavioral, neurological and physical symptoms.

New “triggered-release” mechanism could improve drug delivery

January 16, 2015 11:58 am | by Tom Frew, International Press Officer, Univ. of Warwick | News | Comments

More efficient medical treatments could be developed thanks to a new method for triggering the rearrangement of chemical particles. The new method, developed at the Univ. of Warwick, uses two “parent” nanoparticles that are designed to interact only when in proximity to each other and trigger the release of drug molecules contained within both.

Study details link between inflammation and cancer

January 16, 2015 9:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals one reason why people who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases such as colitis have a higher risk of mutations that cause cancer. The researchers also found that exposure to DNA-damaging chemicals after a bout of inflammation boosts these mutations even more, further increasing cancer risk.

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Bone stem cells shown to regenerate bone and cartilage in adult mice

January 16, 2015 8:24 am | by Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

A stem cell capable of regenerating both bone and cartilage has been identified in bone marrow of mice. The cells, called osteochondroreticular (OCR) stem cells, were discovered by tracking a protein expressed by the cells. Using this marker, the researchers found that OCR cells self-renew and generate key bone and cartilage cells, including osteoblasts and chondrocytes.

Team enlarges brain samples, making them easier to image

January 15, 2015 2:29 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Beginning with the invention of the first microscope in the late 1500s, scientists have been trying to peer into preserved cells and tissues with ever-greater magnification. The latest generation of so-called “super-resolution” microscopes can see inside cells with resolution better than 250 nm.

New tech keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces

January 15, 2015 9:44 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Just as the invention of non-stick pans was a boon for chefs, a new type of nanoscale surface that bacteria can’t stick to holds promise for applications in the food processing, medical and even shipping industries. The technology uses an electrochemical process called anodization to create nanoscale pores that change the electrical charge and surface energy of a metal surface.

Advanced 3-D facial imaging may aid in early detection of autism

January 14, 2015 11:16 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | Videos | Comments

Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders diagnosed in patients who exhibit a shared core of symptoms, including delays in learning to communicate and interact socially. Early detection of autism in children is the key for treatments to be most effective and produce the best outcomes. Using advanced 3-D imaging and statistical analysis techniques, researchers identified facial measurements in children with autism.

DNA “glue” could be used to build tissues, organs

January 14, 2015 10:23 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

DNA molecules provide the "source code" for life in humans, plants, animals and some microbes. But now researchers report an initial study showing that the strands can also act as a glue to hold together 3-D-printed materials that could someday be used to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory.

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First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

January 14, 2015 8:28 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | Videos | Comments

In a laboratory first, Duke Univ. researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The laboratory-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.

Sulforaphane may find possible use for cancer therapy

January 12, 2015 12:29 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

New research has identified one of the key cancer-fighting mechanisms for sulforaphane, and suggests that this phytochemical may be able to move beyond cancer prevention and toward therapeutic use for advanced prostate cancer. Scientists said that pharmacologic doses in the form of supplements would be needed for actual therapies, beyond the amount of sulforaphane that would ordinarily be obtained from dietary sources such as broccoli.

Do viruses make us smarter?

January 12, 2015 10:36 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

A new study from Lund Univ. in Sweden indicates inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterize the human brain. Researchers have long been aware endogenous retroviruses constitute around 5% of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side effect of our evolutionary journey.

Human brain keeps memories tidy by pruning inaccurate ones

January 12, 2015 8:39 am | by Michael Hotchkiss, Office of Communications, Princeton Univ. | Videos | Comments

Forget about it. Your brain is a memory powerhouse, constantly recording experiences in long-term memory. Those memories help you find your way through the world: Who works the counter each morning at your favorite coffee shop? How do you turn on the headlights of your car? What color is your best friend's house?

Scientists find brain protein aids influenza recovery

January 12, 2015 7:55 am | by Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. Spokane scientists have found a brain protein that boosts the healing power of sleep and speeds an animal's recovery from the flu. The research has determined that a brain-specific protein is uniquely involved in sleep responses triggered by the influenza virus in mice. Without the protein, animals develop more severe symptoms of infection and die at higher rates than regular or control mice.

Optimistic people have healthier hearts

January 9, 2015 8:46 am | by Sharita Forrest, Social Work Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

People who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health, suggests a new study that examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults. Participants’ cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use.

Solving a case of intercellular entrapment

January 9, 2015 7:51 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Optogenetics, which uses light to control cellular events, is poised to become an important technology in molecular biology and beyond. The Reich Group in Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry has made a major contribution to this emergent field by developing a light-activated nanocarrier that transports proteins into cells and releases them on command.

Special delivery

January 8, 2015 8:12 am | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Inflammation is a normal and often beneficial response to injury or infection. The swelling, heat and even pain are the body’s attempts to protect its soft tissue, remove offending objects, substances or microbes and initiate healing. However, persistent inflammation is often indicative of more serious conditions and can lead to problems of its own, including impaired healing, loss of function or even tissue death.

The best offense against bacteria is a good defense

January 7, 2015 11:13 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A small protein active in the human immune response can disable bacterial toxins by exploiting a property that makes the toxins effective, but also turns out to be a weakness. These toxins, which are released by bacteria, have malleable surfaces that allow them to move through porous areas of host cells to pave the way for bacteria to stay alive. But that same malleability makes the toxins vulnerable to these immune system proteins.

Microfluidic Method for Primary Neuron Culture and Analysis

January 7, 2015 8:42 am | by Paul J. Hung, Shin-Yi Cindy Chen, Ivana Zubonja and Terry A. Gaige, EMD Millipore | Articles | Comments

Dissecting neuron function, while crucially important for understanding normal and pathological neurological processes, requires measuring the responses of live cells to external stimuli. Because of the inherent difficulties in performing perturbation analyses inside living organisms, there has been a longstanding drive towards developing methodologies for in vitro analysis of neurons.

Study pinpoints autism-linked protein for sculpting brain connections

January 7, 2015 8:00 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Shortly after birth, human brains expand rapidly with the experience of an entirely new world. During this period, neurons in the newborn brain compete with one another to form lasting connections, called synapses. A new study by Duke Univ. researchers provides a close-up of synapse refinement and identifies a protein that is crucial in this process.

Body clock protects metabolic health

January 6, 2015 3:30 pm | by Tom Vasich, Univ. of California, Irvine | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Irvine scientists studying the role of circadian rhythms in skin stem cells found that this clock plays a key role in coordinating daily metabolic cycles and cell division. Their research, which appears in Cell Reports, shows, for the first time, how the body’s intrinsic day-night cycles protect and nurture stem cell differentiation.

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