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Researchers advance genome editing technique

October 22, 2014 7:41 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Customized genome editing has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture. Now, in a paper published in Molecular Cell, North Carolina State Univ. researchers and colleagues examine six key molecular elements that help drive this genome editing system, which is known as CRISPR-Cas.

Ultra-thin carbon electrodes are powerful tool for studying brain disorders

October 21, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have used graphene to fabricate a new type of microelectrode that solves a major problem for investigators looking to understand the intricate circuitry of the brain. The see-through, one-atom-thick electrodes can obtain both high-resolution optical images and electrophysiological data for the first time.

High blood-sugar levels may harden heart valves

October 21, 2014 8:05 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. bioengineers have found new evidence of a possible link between diabetes and the hardening of heart valves. A Rice laboratory, in collaboration with the Univ. of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, discovered that the interstitial cells that turn raw materials into heart valves need just the right amount of nutrients for proper metabolic function.

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“Mega” cells control the growth of blood-producing cells

October 20, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

While megakaryocytes are best known for producing platelets that heal wounds, these "mega" cells found in bone marrow also play a critical role in regulating stem cells according to new research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The study is the first to show that hematopoietic stem cells (the parent cells) can be directly controlled by their own progeny (megakaryocytes).

Geneticists evaluate cost-effective genome analysis

October 17, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Scientists perform genome sequences because want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. However, sequencing a complete genome still costs around $1,000, and sequencing hundreds of individuals would be costly. In two recent review papers, scientists discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups, or pool sequencing, can be an efficient and cost-effective approach.

Biological sample prep time cut dramatically

October 16, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers invented the field of biological accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) in the late 1980s, the process of preparing the samples was time-consuming and cumbersome. Physicists and biomedical researchers used torches, vacuum lines, special chemistries and high degrees of skill to convert biological samples into graphite targets that could then be run through the AMS system.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

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Scientists create mimic of “good” cholesterol to fight heart disease, stroke

October 13, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.

Bio-inspired “nano-cocoons” offer targeted drug delivery against cancer

October 13, 2014 8:39 am | by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a drug delivery system consisting of nanoscale “cocoons” made of DNA that target cancer cells and trick the cells into absorbing the cocoon before unleashing anticancer drugs. The new system is DNA-based, which means it is biocompatible and less toxic to patients than systems that use synthetic materials.

DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

“Cyberwar” against cancer gets boost from intelligent nanocarriers

October 9, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

New research involving scientists in the U.S. and Israel offers new insight into the lethal interaction between cancer cells and the immune system's communications network. The study authors devised a new computer program that models a specific channel of cell-to-cell communication involving exosomes that both cancer and immune cells harness to communicate with other cells. This “cyberwarfare” model reveals three distinct states of cancer.

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Technology that controls brain cells with radio waves earns early BRAIN grant

October 8, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A proposal to develop a new way to remotely control brain cells from Sarah Stanley, a research associate in Rockefeller Univ.’s Laboratory of Molecular Genetics is among the first to receive funding from President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative. The project will make use of a technique called radiogenetics that combines the use of radio waves or magnetic fields with nanoparticles to turn neurons on or off.

Neuroscientists use snail research to help explain “chemo brain”

October 8, 2014 12:00 pm | News | Comments

It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.

Researchers turn computers into powerful allies in the fight against AIDS

October 7, 2014 9:54 am | News | Comments

Until now, researchers searching for compounds that have the potential to become a new HIV drug have been hampered by slow computers and inaccurate prediction models. Now, researchers in Denmark have developed an effective model based on quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics that has found, out of a half-million compounds, 14 of interest in just weeks.

Green tea-based “missiles” kill cancer cells more effectively

October 7, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

Green tea has long been known for its anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-aging and anti-microbial properties. A group of researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore has taken the health benefits of green tea to the next level by using one of its ingredients, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate, to develop a drug delivery system that kills cancer cells more efficiently.

Three win medicine Nobel for discovering brain's GPS

October 7, 2014 9:28 am | by Karl Ritter and Jill Lawless, Associated Press | News | Comments

A U.S.-British scientist and a Norwegian husband-and-wife research team won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the brain's navigation system—the inner GPS that helps us find our way in the world—a revelation that could lead to advances in diagnosing Alzheimer's. The research by John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser represents a "paradigm shift" in neuroscience that could help researchers understand Alzheimer's disease.

Liquid DNA behind virus attacks

October 6, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

According to two recent studies, viruses can convert their DNA from solid to fluid form, explaining how viruses manage to eject DNA into the cells of their victims. The researchers in one study, which focused on herpes infections, say the discovery was surprising: No one was previously aware of the “phase transition” from solid to fluid form in virus DNA.

A glimpse into the 3-D brain

October 6, 2014 11:39 am | News | Comments

People who wish to know how memory works are forced to take a glimpse into the brain. They can now do so without bloodshed: Researchers have developed a new method for creating 3-D models of memory-relevant brain structures. The approach is unique because it enables automatic calculation of the neural interconnections in the brain on the basis of their position inside the space and their projection directions.

“Programmable” antibiotic uses enzyme to attack drug-resistant microbes

October 6, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Microbes populating the human body have good, bad and mostly mysterious implications for our health. But when something goes wrong, we use the brute force of traditional antibiotics, which wipe out everything at once. Researchers at Rockefeller Univ. have developed a more subtle approach that uses the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9 to target a particular sequence of DNA, cutting that up but leaving more innocent microbes alone.

Scientists develop barcoding tools for stem cells

October 6, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

A 7-year-project to develop a barcoding and tracking system for tissue stem cells has revealed previously unrecognized features of normal blood production: New data from Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists at Boston Children's Hospital suggests, surprisingly, that the billions of blood cells that we produce each day are made not by blood stem cells, but rather their less pluripotent descendants, called progenitor cells.

A protein approach to halve and to whole

October 6, 2014 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have developed a plug-and-play approach to detect interactions between proteins they say could greatly improve understanding of basic biological functions. The Rice team, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, split and added sticky tags to fluorescent proteins that become biosensors when inserted into living cells.

First pictures of BRCA2 protein show how it works to repair DNA

October 6, 2014 8:07 am | by Sam Wong, Imperial College London | News | Comments

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.

NIH awards UC Berkeley $7.2 million to advance brain initiative

October 2, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

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.

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