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Solving an evolutionary puzzle

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

For four decades, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals from nearby manufacturing plants flowed into New Bedford Harbor, creating one of the EPA’s largest Superfund cleanup sites. It’s also the site of an evolutionary puzzle: small Atlantic killifish are not only tolerating the toxic conditions in the harbor, they seem to be thriving there. In a new paper, researchers may have an explanation for their genetic resistance to PCBs.

Scientists create first 3-D movies of living sperm

February 12, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

To improve their chances of success, in vitro fertilization clinics need to assess the viability of the sperm they use. Now doctors may soon have a new technique to help them sort the good sperm cells from the less viable ones: a tracking system, developed by a team of researchers from four European institutions, that takes 3-D movies of living sperm.

New advance in 3-D printing and tissue engineering technology

February 11, 2014 8:46 am | News | Comments

Researchers have introduced a unique microrobotic technique to assemble the components of complex materials, the foundation of tissue engineering and 3-D printing. Tissue engineering and 3-D printing have become vitally important to the future of medicine for many reasons. The shortage of available organs for transplantation, for example, leaves many patients on waiting lists for life-saving treatment.

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Roots to shoots: Hormone transport in plants deciphered

February 11, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Plant growth is orchestrated by a spectrum of signals from hormones within a plant. A major group of plant hormones called cytokinins originate in the roots of plants, and their journey to growth areas on the stem and in leaves stimulates plant development. Though these phytohormones have been identified in the past, the molecular mechanism responsible for their transportation within plants was previously poorly understood. Until now.

Shape-sifting: NIST categorizes bio-scaffold by characteristic cell shapes

February 10, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Shape is thought to play an important role in the effectiveness of cells grown to repair or replace damaged tissue in the body. To help design new structures that enable cells to "shape up," researchers at NIST have come up with a way to measure, and more importantly, classify, the shapes cells tend to take in different environments.

Computer models help decode cells that sense light without seeing

February 10, 2014 7:47 am | News | Comments

For more than two years, researchers have been investigating melanopsin, a retina pigment capable of sensing light changes in the environment, informing the nervous system and synchronizing it with the day/night rhythm. They have found that this pigment is potentially more sensitive to light than its more famous counterpart rhodopsin, the pigment that allows night vision.

New application of physics tools used in biology

February 10, 2014 7:43 am | by Anne M. Stark, Livermore Lab | News | Comments

A team of physicists have used statistical mechanics and mathematical modeling to shed light on something known as epigenetic memory, which allows an organism to create a biological memory of some variable condition, such as quality of nutrition or temperature. The model highlights the "engineering" challenge a cell must constantly face during molecular recognition.

Genome editing goes hi-fi

February 10, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

A one-letter change in the human genetic code can sometimes mean the difference between health and a serious disease. But replicating these tiny changes in human stem cells has proven challenging. Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have found a way to efficiently edit the human genome one letter at a time, not only boosting researchers' ability to model human disease, but also paving the way for new therapies.

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Advanced approach identifies new drug candidates from genome sequence

February 10, 2014 7:41 am | News | Comments

In research that could ultimately lead to many new medicines, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have developed a potentially general approach to design drugs from genome sequence. As a proof of principle, they identified a highly potent compound that causes cancer cells to attack themselves and die.

Optogenetic toolkit goes multicolor

February 10, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.  

Can Western Blots Be Trusted?

February 6, 2014 3:26 pm | by Ning Liu, Senior Product Manager, Laboratory Separation Div., Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., Hercules, Calif. | Articles | Comments

In an editorial cartoon that appeared in a recent issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, a surgeon wields a scalpel over his patient. The caption reads: “Just a little nip here and there. We don’t want it to look like it’s had any work done.” The catch? The patient is a western blot, and the doctor is presumably making his patient look presentable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Automated Pre-formulation Viscosity Screening of Biological Products

February 6, 2014 1:38 pm | by Dr. Lisa Newey-Keane, Biopharmaceutical Portfolio Manager, Malvern Instruments | Articles | Comments

As interest and investment in biopharmaceuticals grows, the pressure to innovate and rapidly deliver new therapies increases. While many avenues may be pursued, the high cost of developing biological molecules increases the need to advance only those therapies with the greatest likelihood of becoming manufacturable, efficacious, safe and profitable products.

Salk Institute, Stanford Univ. to lead $40 million stem cell genomics center

February 6, 2014 1:28 pm | News | Comments

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies will join Stanford Univ. in leading a new Center of Excellence in Stem Cell Genomics, created through a $40 million award by California's stem cell agency. The center will bring together experts and investigators from seven major California institutions to focus on bridging the fields of genomics with cutting-edge stem cell research and ultimately find new therapies.

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A microchip for metastasis

February 6, 2014 8:09 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer experience skeletal metastasis, in which cancer cells migrate from a primary tumor into bone. While scientists are attempting to better understand metastasis in general, not much is known about how and why certain cancers spread to specific organs. Now researchers have developed a 3-D microfluidic platform that mimics the spread of breast cancer cells into a bone-like environment.

Bioengineer to create new nanoparticle to shore up arterial walls

February 5, 2014 12:21 pm | News | Comments

A Texas bioengineer has received a four-year, $1.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to create a nanoparticle system to shore up arterial walls following angioplasty and stenting procedures to treat coronary arterial disease. Kytai Nguyen discovered a way to use nanoparticles to help the arteries heal themselves more effectively.

Inner workings of a cellular nanomotor revealed

February 5, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Our cells produce thousands of proteins, but more than one-third of these proteins can fulfill their function only after migrating to the outside of the cell. While it is known that protein migration occurs with the help of various “nanomotors” that push proteins out of the cell, little is known about their precise mechanical functioning. New research reveals the inner workings of one such nanomotor, called SecA, with new clarity.

Battelle to run CDC’s biological repository

February 5, 2014 9:07 am | News | Comments

In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) building on the outskirts of Atlanta, large metal vats are filled with a frozen array of specimens such as blood and DNA, many of them irreplaceable. Battelle has been awarded a five-year, $12.6 million contract to help manage this important biological repository, which contains 12 million biological samples.

Growing a business, from the lab

February 3, 2014 7:45 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the early 1990s, MIT researcher Shuguang Zhang, then an MIT postdoctoral researcher, stumbled upon peptides that could self-assemble into nanostructures, creating 3-D environments for cell culturing. It was, at the time, a breakthrough discovery. But it wouldn’t be until a decade later, in a last-ditch effort to bring this discovery to the public, that these peptides would find commercial application through 3-D Matrix.

Cell membrane studied as future diagnostic tool

January 31, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and in Lithuania have used a NIST-developed laboratory model of a simplified cell membrane to accurately detect and measure a protein associated with a serious gynecological disease, bacterial vaginosis (BV), at extraordinarily low concentrations. The work illustrates how the artificial membrane could be used to improve disease diagnosis.

Zebra fish fins help researchers gain insight into bone regeneration

January 31, 2014 9:05 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon biologists say they have opened the window on the natural process of bone regeneration in zebra fish, and that the insights they gained could be used to advance therapies for bone fractures and disease. Their work shows that two molecular pathways work in concert to allow adult zebra fish to perfectly replace bones lost upon fin amputation.

Merck joins companies ending chimpanzee research

January 31, 2014 8:38 am | News | Comments

Drugmaker Merck & Co. is joining two dozen other pharmaceutical companies and contract laboratories in committing to not use chimpanzees for research. The growing trend could mean roughly 1,000 chimps in the U.S. used for research or warehoused for many years in laboratory cages could be "retired" to sanctuaries by around 2020.

Self-aligning DNA wires have been constructed for nanoelectronics

January 30, 2014 11:46 am | News | Comments

Continuous miniaturization in microelectronics is nearing physical limits, so researchers are seeking new methods for device fabrication. One promising candidate is a DNA origami technique in which individual strands of the biomolecule self-assemble into arbitrarily-shaped nanostructures. A new simpler strategy combines DNA origami with self-organized pattern formation to do away with elaborate procedures for positioning DNA structures.

Stress turns ordinary cells pluripotent

January 29, 2014 12:20 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Japan have developed a new, surprisingly simple method for creating stem cell. In a pair of reports, the researchers show that ordinary somatic cells from newborn mice can be stripped of their differentiation memory, reverting to a state of pluripotency resembling embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. All that’s needed is a dose of sublethal stress.

Gold DNA strands close electric circuits in biosensors

January 29, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

By letting DNA strands grow together with gold, scientists in Finland have developed a new concept for super-sensitive disease diagnostics. The method relies on growth of a DNA strand over a narrow gap between two electrodes in an electric circuit. The strand will only grow if a certain DNA molecule has bound to the surface of one electrode, which makes it possible to build diagnostic tests for detection of that specific DNA molecule.

Researchers open door to new HIV therapy

January 29, 2014 7:29 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

People infected with HIV can stave off the symptoms of AIDS thanks to drug cocktails that mainly target three enzymes produced by the virus, but resistant strains pop up periodically. Researchers have now focused on a fourth protein, Nef, that hijacks host proteins and is essential to HIV’s lethality. By blocking the part of a key host protein to which Nef binds, it may be possible to slow or stop HIV.

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