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The origins of multicellular life

November 6, 2014 10:14 am | by Massey Univ. | News | Comments

In groundbreaking research reported in this week’s edition of Nature, researchers from New Zealand, Germany and the United States report the real-time evolution of life forms that have all the hallmarks of multicellular organisms.       

Getting to the root of plants’ natural sunscreen

November 5, 2014 8:18 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Plants bask in the sun and need its light to live, but they also coat themselves in a natural sunscreen like a sunbather on the beach, protecting themselves from damaging rays. A new study examined the properties and mechanics of the molecule plants use to absorb harmful ultraviolet-B radiation, and its SPF rating would be off the charts.

Laser technique measures fruit, vegetable consumption in skin

November 5, 2014 8:04 am | by Michael Greenwood, Yale School of Public Health | News | Comments

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is linked to a variety of improved health outcomes, but accurately measuring consumption by self-report, especially with children, is challenging and can be of questionable validity. But a device being developed in a collaboration that involves researchers from the Yale School of Public Health has the potential to change that.

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Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease may share deep roots

November 5, 2014 7:54 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease appear to have a lot in common. They share risk factors such as obesity and they often occur together. If they also share the same genetic underpinings, then doctors could devise a way to treat them together too. With that hope in mind, scientists applied multiple layers of analysis to the genomics of more than 15,000 women.

High-speed “label-free” imaging could reveal dangerous plaques

November 4, 2014 1:21 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are close to commercializing a new type of medical imaging technology that could diagnose cardiovascular disease by measuring ultrasound signals from molecules exposed to a fast-pulsing laser. The system takes precise 3-D images of plaques lining arteries and identifies deposits that are likely to rupture and cause heart attacks.

Technique turns antibodies into highly tuned nanobodies

November 3, 2014 7:53 am | by Zach Veilleux, The Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Antibodies, in charge of recognizing and homing in on molecular targets, are among the most useful tools in biology and medicine. Nanobodies—antibodies’ tiny cousins—can do the same tasks, for example marking molecules for research or flagging diseased cells for destruction. But, thanks to their comparative simplicity nanobodies offer the tantalizing prospect of being much easier to produce.

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

November 1, 2014 11:59 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

Decoding the emergence of metastatic cancer stem cells

November 1, 2014 11:15 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

In the first study of its kind, Rice Univ. researchers have mapped how information flows through the genetic circuits that cause cancer cells to become metastatic. The research reveals a common pattern in the decision-making that allows cancer cells to both migrate and form new tumors.

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Cell division, minus the cells

October 31, 2014 12:42 pm | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, cytokinesis, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists but has been notoriously difficult to study. Now Harvard Medical School systems biologists report that they have reconstituted cytokinesis, complete with signals that direct molecular traffic, without the cell.

Heart-therapy researchers develop nanobullet drug delivery system

October 31, 2014 9:52 am | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. School of Medicine researchers have developed a new formula for delivering the therapeutic peptide apelin to heart tissue for treatment of hypertrophy, a hereditary disease commonly attributed to sudden death in athletes. The nanoscale delivery system, which dramatically increases the peptide’s stability, shows promise for treating heart disease in humans, the researchers said.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 31, 2014 8:54 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints, including articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly. Univ. of California, Davis biomedical engineers, exploring ways to toughen up engineered cartilage and keep natural tissues strong outside the body, report new developments.

Identifying the source of stem cells

October 30, 2014 3:14 pm | News | Comments

When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammalian cells become the protective placenta or to commit to forming the baby. It’s during this critical first step that research from Michigan State Univ. has revealed key discoveries. The results provide insights into where stem cells come from, and could advance research in regenerative medicine.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 30, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly, but engineered replacement tissue is, mechanically, far from native tissue. Researchers in California report the use of an enzyme that has greatly improved engineering cartilage built from cultures. It promotes cross-linking and makes the material stronger.

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Heart’s own immune cells can help it heal

October 30, 2014 2:55 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When the heart is injured, beneficial immune cells are often supplanted by bone marrow cells, which cause damaging inflammation. In a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages.

Are my muscular dystrophy drugs working?

October 30, 2014 8:25 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

People with muscular dystrophy could one day assess the effectiveness of their medication with the help of a smartphone-linked device, a new study in mice suggests. The study used a new method to process ultrasound imaging information that could lead to hand-held instruments that provide fast, convenient medical information.

Afingen uses precision method to enhance plants

October 30, 2014 8:17 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine being able to precisely control specific tissues of a plant to enhance desired traits without affecting the plant’s overall function. Thus a rubber tree could be manipulated to produce more natural latex. Trees grown for wood could be made with higher lignin content, making for stronger yet lighter-weight lumber.

Nano ruffles in brain matter

October 29, 2014 12:37 pm | News | Comments

An accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins deposits called plaques is known to cause Alzheimer’s disease. One aspect of this illness that has not received much attention is which role the structure of the brain environment plays. Researchers have discovered that macromolecules like astrocytes provide well-defined physical cues in the form of ruffles that have a crucial role in promoting healthy interactions between cells in the hippocampus.

ECG on the run: Continuous surveillance of marathon athletes is feasible

October 29, 2014 9:40 am | News | Comments

The condition of an athlete's heart has for the first time been accurately monitored throughout the duration of a marathon race. The real-time monitoring was achieved by continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) surveillance and data transfer over a public mobile phone network. The new development allows instantaneous diagnosis of potentially fatal rhythm disorders.

Researchers prove mathematical models can predict cellular processes

October 29, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

A team led by Virginia Tech researchers studied cells found in breast and other types of connective tissue and discovered new information about cell transitions that take place during wound healing and cancer. They developed mathematical models to predict the dynamics of cell transitions, and by comparison gained new understanding of how a substance known as transforming growth factor triggers cell transformations.

Scientists discover exact receptor for DEET that repels mosquitoes

October 29, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and now researchers led by a Univ. of California, Davis, scientist have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They also have identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.

Blood test may help to diagnose pancreatic cancer

October 29, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Cancer researchers have found that a simple blood test might help diagnose pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease. In new research at Indiana Univ., scientists have found that several microRNAs, which are small RNA molecules, circulate at high levels in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients.

How we get the nitrogen we need

October 28, 2014 8:42 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2, it is inert and useless to most organisms.

“Sticky” ends start synthetic collagen growth

October 28, 2014 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, a major component of bone and the fibrous tissues that support cells and hold organs together. Discovering its secrets may lead to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering and cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

New dent in HIV-1’s armor

October 27, 2014 8:01 am | by The Salk Institute | Videos | Comments

Like a slumbering dragon, HIV can lay dormant in a person’s cells for years, evading medical treatments only to wake up and strike at a later time, quickly replicating itself and destroying the immune system. Scientists at the Salk Institute have uncovered a new protein that participates in active HIV replication. The new protein, called Ssu72, is part of a switch used to awaken HIV-1 from its slumber.

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