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Designing more successful synthetic molecules

September 17, 2014 11:08 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

Ever since Robert Hooke first described cells in 1665, scientists have been trying to figure out what goes on inside. One of the most exciting modern techniques involves injecting cells with synthetic genetic molecules that can passively report on the cell's behavior. A new computer model could not only improve the sensitivity and success of these synthetic molecules, but also make them easier to design in the first place.

CDC study: Americans' bellies are expanding fast

September 16, 2014 4:37 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures—the most dangerous kind of obesity—has climbed at a startling rate over the past decade, according to a government study. People whose fat has settled mostly around their waistlines instead of in their hips, thighs, buttocks or all over are known to run a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

Setting a course for genomic islands

September 16, 2014 11:57 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. scientists are exploring uncharted genomic islands to study new chemistry between bacteria and their hosts, from invertebrates to humans. One such discovery is published in Chemistry & Biology. The findings describe a biological pathway that contains a hypothetical protein responsible for the formation of a rare, bicyclic sugar.

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Is the U.S. doing enough to fight Ebola?

September 16, 2014 11:46 am | by Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press | News | Comments

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal is to speed up medical research and put hospitals on alert should an infected traveler arrive.

Muscular dystrophy: Repair the muscles, not the genetic defect

September 16, 2014 7:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A potential way to treat muscular dystrophy directly targets muscle repair instead of the underlying genetic defect that usually leads to the disease. Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice.

New glaucoma cause discovered

September 15, 2014 10:57 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a novel cause of glaucoma in an animal model, and related to their findings, are now developing an eye drop aimed at curing the disease. They believe their findings will be important to human glaucoma. A cure for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., has been elusive because the basis of the disease is poorly understood.

Researchers find neural compensation in people with Alzheimer’s-related protein

September 15, 2014 10:43 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The human brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of beta-amyloid, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study led by Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers. The findings could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.

Taking a Big Bite Out of Malaria

September 15, 2014 9:49 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Malaria threatens more than 40% of the world’s population and kills up to 1.2 million people worldwide each year. Many of these deaths happen in Sub-Saharan Africa in children under the age of five and pregnant woman. The estimates for clinical infection is somewhere between 300 to 500 million people each year, worldwide.

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X-rays unlock a protein’s SWEET side

September 15, 2014 8:41 am | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Sugar is a vital source of energy. Understanding just how sugar makes its way into the cell could lead to the design of better drugs for diabetes patients and an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables farmers are able to grow. Stanford Univ. researchers have recently uncovered one of these "pathways” into the cell by piecing together proteins slightly wider than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.

Blood-cleansing biospleen device developed for sepsis therapy

September 15, 2014 8:21 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Things can go downhill fast when a patient has sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which bacteria or fungi multiply in a patient's blood—often too fast for antibiotics to help. A new device inspired by the human spleen and developed by a team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering may radically transform the way doctors treat sepsis.

Slimy fish and the origins of brain development

September 15, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Lamprey—slimy, eel-like parasitic fish with tooth-riddled, jawless sucking mouths—are rather disgusting to look at, but thanks to their important position on the vertebrate family tree, they can offer important insights about the evolutionary history of our own brain development, a recent study suggests.

Evolutionary biology key to tackling diverse global problems

September 12, 2014 10:14 am | by Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Evolutionary biology techniques can and must be used to help solve global challenges in agriculture, medicine and environmental sciences, advises a nine-member global team led by an evolutionary ecologist from Univ. of California, Davis.

New defense mechanism against viruses discovered

September 11, 2014 1:18 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered that a known quality control mechanism in human, animal and plant cells is active against viruses. They think this new form of a so-called “innate immune defense” might represent one of the oldest defense mechanisms against viruses in evolutionary history.

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Findings suggest how swimming cells form biofilms on surfaces

September 11, 2014 1:07 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteria secrete a mucus-like “extracellular polymeric substance” that forms biofilms, allowing bacterial colonies to thrive on surfaces. Costs associated with biofilms affecting medical devices and industrial equipment amount to billions of dollars annually. New research reveals specifics about interactions that induce bacteria to swim close to surfaces and attach to biofilms. This may point to future approaches for fighting biofilms.

Researchers create world’s largest DNA origami

September 11, 2014 9:35 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ., Duke Univ. and the Univ. of Copenhagen have created the world’s largest DNA origami, which are nanoscale constructions with applications ranging from biomedical research to nanoelectronics. DNA origami are self-assembling biochemical structures that are made up of two types of DNA.

Chemists discover way nose perceives common class of odors

September 10, 2014 6:10 pm | News | Comments

Biologists claim that humans can perceive and distinguish a trillion different odors, but little is known about the underlying chemical processes involved. Biochemists at The City College of New York have found an unexpected chemical strategy employed by the mammalian nose to detect chemicals known as aldehydes.

Brain structure could predict risky behavior

September 10, 2014 10:31 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Some people avoid risks at all costs, while others will put their wealth, health and safety at risk without a thought. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that the volume of the parietal cortex in the brain could predict where people fall on the risk-taking spectrum.

Cloud computing revolution applies to evolution

September 10, 2014 7:30 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant to two Rice Univ. computer science groups will allow them to build cloud computing tools to help analyze evolutionary patterns. With the three-year grant, Christopher Jermaine and Luay Nakhleh, both associate professors of computer science, will develop parallel processing tools that track the evolution of genes and genomes across species.

Fingerprinting cell metabolism points toward study of obesity, diabetes

September 9, 2014 7:38 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have shown how to use a new imaging platform to map lipid metabolism in living cells, discovering specifically where cholesterol is stored and pointing toward further studies in obesity, diabetes and longevity. The imaging approach makes it possible to not only quantify the storage of cholesterol, but also the "desaturation" and oxidation of lipids, which may reduce the ability of cells to use insulin.

Scientists apply biomedical technique to reveal changes in body of the ocean

September 9, 2014 7:33 am | News | Comments

For decades, doctors have developed methods to diagnose how different types of cells and systems in the body are functioning. Now scientists have adapted an emerging biomedical technique to study the vast body of the ocean. In recent work they have demonstrated that they can identify and measure proteins in the ocean, revealing how single-celled marine organisms and ocean ecosystems operate.

Physicists explore biomimetic clocks

September 8, 2014 1:37 pm | News | Comments

An international team has engineered and studied “active vesicles." These purely synthetic, molecularly thin sacs are capable of transforming energy, injected at the microscopic level, into organized, self-sustained motion.The ability to create spontaneous motion and stable oscillations is a hallmark of living systems and reproducing and understanding this behavior remains a significant challenge for researchers.

Parkinson's, cancer findings earn medical prizes

September 8, 2014 9:25 am | by Malcolm Ritter - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Key discoveries about breast cancer, Parkinson's disease and the body's handling of defective proteins have earned prestigious medical awards for five scientists. The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the winners Monday. Each prize includes a $250,000 honorarium. The awards will be presented Sept. 19 in New York.

Breath temperature test could identify lung cancer

September 8, 2014 8:43 am | News | Comments

New research in Europe suggests that testing the temperature of breath could be a simple and noninvasive method to either confirm or reject the presence of lung cancer. Many research teams have been looking at the possibility of using breath tests for a number of cancers but this is the first study looking at breath temperature as a marker in lung cancer.

Platelet-like particles augment natural blood clotting for treating trauma

September 8, 2014 8:23 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new class of synthetic platelet-like particles could augment natural blood clotting for the emergency treatment of traumatic injuries. The clotting particles, which are based on soft and deformable hydrogel materials, are triggered by the same factor that initiates the body’s own clotting processes.

Shining light on brain circuits to study learning, memory

September 8, 2014 8:04 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley neuroscientists plan to use light to tweak the transmission of signals in the brain to learn more about how the mouse brain and presumably the human brain process information. Last month, the promising optogenetics research project was awarded one of 36 new $300,000, two-year grants from the National Science Foundation in support of the BRAIN Initiative.

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