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Program predicts placement of chemical tags that control gene activity

September 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

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.

Graphene sensor tracks down cancer biomarkers

September 19, 2014 4:33 pm | News | Comments

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.

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

September 19, 2014 8:49 am | by Mark Pratt, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

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New diagnostic method identifies genetic diseases

September 18, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Fewer than half of all patients who are suspected of having a genetic disease actually receive a satisfactory diagnosis. To solve this problem, scientists have developed an innovative diagnostic procedure, called PhenIX, that combines the analysis of genetic irregularities with the patient's clinical presentation. The method involves a search for genes that cause disease and its related phenotypes to produce a short, testable list.

Scientists discover RNA modifications in some unexpected places

September 16, 2014 11:40 am | by Matt Fearer, Whitehead Institute | News | Comments

Deploying sophisticated high-throughput sequencing technology, a team of Whitehead Institute and Broad Institute researchers have collaborated on a comprehensive, high-resolution mapping that confirms a post-transcriptional RNA modification called pseudouridylation does indeed occur naturally in messenger RNA. This is somewhat surprising finding using a new quantitative sequencing method.

EEG study findings reveal how fear is processed in the brain

September 16, 2014 8:51 am | News | Comments

Building on previous animal and human research, a new study has identified an electrophysiological marker for threat in the brain. The findings illustrate how fear arises in the brain when individuals are exposed to threatening images, and the study is the first to separate emotion from threat by controlling for the dimension of arousal, the emotional reaction provoked, whether positive or negative, in response to stimuli.

Skin shocks used at Mass. school draw FDA look

September 15, 2014 8:52 am | by Jennifer C. Kerr and Lauran Neegaard, Associated Press | News | Comments

Self-injury is one of the most difficult behaviors associated with autism and other developmental or intellectual disabilities, and a private facility outside Boston that takes on some of the hardest-to-treat cases is embroiled in a major debate: Should it use electrical skin shocks to try to keep patients from harming themselves or others?

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.

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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.

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.

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.

“Electronic skin” could improve early breast cancer detection

September 10, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

For detecting cancer, manual breast exams seem low-tech compared to other methods such as MRI. But scientists are now developing an “electronic skin” that “feels” and images small lumps that fingers can miss. Knowing the size and shape of a lump could allow for earlier identification of breast cancer, which could save lives.

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.

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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.

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.

Banked blood grows stiffer with age, study finds

September 5, 2014 12:13 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

It may look like fresh blood and flow like fresh blood, but the longer blood is stored, the less it can carry oxygen into the tiny microcapillaries of the body. Using advanced optical techniques, researchers measured the stiffness of the membrane surrounding red blood cells over time. They found that, even though the cells retain their shape and hemoglobin content, the membranes get stiffer, steadily decreasing the cells’ functionality.

Researchers turn to plants to help treat hemophilia

September 4, 2014 1:02 pm | by April Frawley Birdwell, Univ. of Florida | News | Comments

Up to 30% of people with the most common form of hemophilia develop antibodies that attack lifesaving protein injections, making it difficult to prevent or treat excessive bleeding. Now researchers have developed a way to thwart production of these antibodies by using plant cells to teach the immune system to tolerate rather than attack the clotting factors.

Ultrasensitive biosensor from molybdenite semiconductor outshines graphene

September 4, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

A new atomically thin 2-D ultrasensitive semiconductor material developed by researchers California promises to push the boundaries of biosensing technology toward single-molecule detection. Based on molybdenum disulfide or molybdenite, the biosensor material which is used commonly as a dry lubricant, surpasses graphene’s already high sensitivity, offers better scalability and lends itself to high-volume manufacturing.

Google's health startup forges venture with AbbVie

September 3, 2014 4:09 pm | News | Comments

An ambitious health startup from Google is teaming up with biotechnology drugmaker AbbVie in a $500 million joint venture that will try to develop new ways to treat cancer and other diseases such as Alzheimer's. The alliance announced Wednesday calls for Google Inc. and AbbVie Inc. to each invest $250 million in the project. An additional $1 billion may be poured into the project.

Handheld scanner could aid complete removal of brain tumors

September 3, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

Cancerous brain tumors are notorious for growing back despite surgical attempts to remove them, and for leading to a dire prognosis for patients. But scientists are developing a new way to try to root out malignant cells during surgery so fewer or none get left behind to form new tumors. The technology relies on a Raman scanner that can read injected nanoprobes.

A new synthetic amino acid for an emerging class of drugs

September 3, 2014 1:01 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a new amino acid that can be used to modify the 3-D structure of therapeutic peptides. Insertion of the amino acid into bioactive peptides enhanced their binding affinity up to 40-fold. Peptides with the new amino acid could potentially become a new class of therapeutics.

A “clear” choice for clearing 3-D cell cultures

September 3, 2014 11:40 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Because Brown Univ. biomedical engineering graduate student Molly Boutin needed to study how neural tissues grow from stem cells, she wanted to grow not just a cell culture, but a sphere-shaped one. Cells grow and interact more naturally in 3-D cultures than when they’re confined to thin slides or dishes.

A new way to diagnose malaria

September 2, 2014 7:38 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye and looks under a microscope for the Plasmodium parasite, which causes the disease. This approach gives an accurate count of how many parasites are in the blood, but is not ideal because there is potential for human error.

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