Mutations in the gene that encodes BRCA2 are well known for raising the risk of breast cancer and other cancers. Although the protein was known to be involved in DNA repair, its shape and mechanism have been unclear, making it impossible to target with therapies. Researchers in the U.K. purified the protein and used electron microscopy to reveal its structure and how it interacts with other proteins and DNA.
The National Institutes of Health this week announced its first research grants through President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, including three awards to the Univ. of California, Berkeley, totaling nearly $7.2 million over three years. The projects are among 58 funded in this initial wave of NIH grants, involving 100 researchers and a total of $46 million in fiscal year 2014 dollars alone.
Cancer vaccines have recently emerged as a promising approach for killing tumor cells before they spread. But so far, most clinical candidates haven’t worked that well. Now, scientists have developed a new way to deliver vaccines that successfully stifled tumor growth when tested in laboratory mice. And the key is in the vaccine’s unique stealthy nanoparticles.
A collaboration has been announced between Agilent Technologies and the Univ. of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research to produce a comprehensive metabolomics multiple-reaction monitoring library and methodology, using Agilent’s Infinity 1290 UHPLC, 6460 triple quadrupole mass spectrometry system, and MassHunter Software. The goal is to accelerate quantification of hundreds of metabolically important compounds.
Inspired by a desire to help wounded soldiers, an international team has created a paint-on, see-through, “smart” bandage that glows to indicate a wound’s tissue oxygenation concentration. Because oxygen plays a critical role in healing, mapping these levels in severe wounds and burns can help to greatly improve the success of surgeries to restore limbs and physical functions.
Only a minority of suspicious mammograms actually leads to a cancer diagnosis, which results in lots of needless worry and spent time for women and their families. Ultrasound elastography could be an excellent screening tool but it requires a lot of skill and interpretation. In an effort to improve results, researchers in Michigan have developed a virtual “breast”, allowing medical professionals to practice in the laboratory.
Given a choice, most patients would prefer to take a drug orally instead of getting an injection. Unfortunately, many drugs, can’t be given as a pill because they get broken down in the stomach before they can be absorbed. To help overcome that obstacle, researchers have devised a novel drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the lining of the stomach after swallowed.
Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Paul Atzberger, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and in mechanical engineering, often works in areas where mathematics plays an ever more important role in the discovery and development of new ideas. Most recently he has developed new mathematical approaches to gain insights into how proteins move around within lipid bilayer membranes.
How the brain ages is still largely an open question because this organ is mostly insulated from direct contact with other systems in the body. In recent research, scientists in Israel found evidence of a unique “signature” that may be the “missing link” between cognitive decline and aging. The scientists believe that this discovery may lead, in the future, to treatments that can slow or reverse cognitive decline in older people.
Cryptophytes, complex single-cell algae that make up a lot of the ocean's phytoplankton, have, in the course of evolution, adapted their light-harvesting mechanisms to their environment and have thus become capable of utilizing green light. Researchers in Germany have recently been the first ones to reveal similarities and differences in the assembly of this light-harvesting machinery compared to cyanobacteria and red algae.
Almost all of today’s previously existing cell-sorting methods rely on what is called a single-cell analysis platform. A researcher in Hawaii took a different approach, inventing a bulk method that sorts different cell populations by tuning their solubility. Instead of targeting individual features, the measurement principle sorts cells by differentiating their characteristic surface free energies.
Chemists in the U.K. have gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped. The scientists hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.
Platelets, the tiny cell fragments whose job it is to stop bleeding, are very simple. They don’t have a cell nucleus. But they can “feel” the physical environment around them, researchers at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have discovered. Platelets respond to surfaces with greater stiffness by increasing their stickiness, the degree to which they “turn on” other platelets and other components of the clotting system, the researchers found.
Researchers in the Netherlands have managed to open nanovesicles in a reversible process and close them using a magnet. Previously, these vesicles had been “loaded” with a drug and opened elsewhere using a chemical process, such as osmosis. The magnetic method, which is repeatable, is the first to demonstrate the viability of another method.
Antarctic fish that manufacture their own "antifreeze" proteins to survive in the icy Southern Ocean also suffer an unfortunate side effect: The protein-bound ice crystals that accumulate inside their bodies resist melting even when temperatures warm. Ice that doesn't melt at its normal melting point is referred to as "superheated”, and the phenomenon was an unexpected discovery by scientists in Oregon and Illinois.
This short course will provide practical training in the field of cell culture, bioreactor operation, bioprocess paradigm and separation technology. It will also increase understanding of the industrial food and drug fermentation biotechnology through simulation, sterilization technologies and clinical implications, as well as related research done across different countries, universities and industries.
A Rice Univ. team led by bioengineer Jeffrey Jacot and chemical engineer and chemist Matteo Pasquali have created new pediatric heart-defect patches infused with conductive single-walled carbon nanotubes that allow electrical signals to pass unhindered. The nanotubes overcome a limitation of current patches in which pore walls hinder the transfer of electrical signals between cardiomyocytes, the heart muscle’s beating cells.
Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.
Using an optical microstructure and gold nanoparticles, scientists have amplified the interaction of light with DNA to the extent that they can now track interactions between individual DNA molecule segments. In doing so, they have approached the limits of what is physically possible. This optical biosensor for single unlabelled molecules could also be a breakthrough in the development of biochips:
Each year, new strains of bacteria emerge that resist even the most powerful antibiotics, but scientists have discovered very few new classes of antibiotics in the past decade. Engineers have now turned a powerful new weapon on these superbugs. Using a gene-editing system that can disable any target gene, they have shown that they can selectively kill bacteria carrying harmful genes that confer antibiotic resistance or cause disease.
Synthetic molecules hold great potential for revealing key processes that occur in cells, but the trial-and-error approach to their design has limited their effectiveness. Christina Smolke at Stanford Univ. has introduced a new computer model that could provide better blueprints for building synthetic genetic tools.
Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch, which involves the enzyme telomerase, points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.
Biochemists in California have developed a program that predicts the placement of chemical marks that control the activity of genes based on sequences of DNA. By comparing sequences with and without epigenomic modification, the researchers identified DNA patterns associated with the changes. They call this novel analysis pipeline Epigram and have made both the program and the DNA motifs they identified openly available to other scientists.
A new, ultrasensitive biosensor made from graphene has been used to detect molecules that indicate an increased risk of developing cancer. The biosensor has been shown to be more than five times more sensitive than bioassay tests currently in use, and was able to provide results in a matter of minutes, opening up the possibility of a rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tool for patients.
There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center. Dr. Sonal Saraiya and her colleagues in Michigan found that packing strips of cured pork in the nose of a child who suffers from uncontrollable, life-threatening nosebleeds can stop the hemorrhaging. The discovery won a 2014 Ig Nobel prize, the annual award for sometimes inane, but often practical, scientific discoveries.