A fundamental chemical pathway that all plants use to create an essential amino acid needed by all animals to make proteins has now been traced to two groups of ancient bacteria. The pathway is also known for making hundreds of chemicals, including a compound that makes wood strong and the pigments that make red wine red.
Graphene has excellent biocompatibility thanks to its great flexibility and chemical durability, and its conducting properties suggest uses for prosthetic devices in humans. Physicists are now developing key components of an artificial retina made of graphene. These retina implants may one day serve as optical prostheses for blind people whose optical nerves are still intact.
Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer type in the United States. A new handheld device may help diagnosis and treatment efforts for the disease. It uses lasers and sound waves and is the first that can be used directly on a patient to accurately measure how deep a melanoma tumor extends into the skin.
Brain tumors fly under the radar of the body’s defense forces by coating their cells with extra amounts of a specific protein, new research at the Univ. of Michigan shows. The findings, made in mice and rats, show the key role of a protein called galectin-1 in some of the most dangerous brain tumors, called high grade malignant gliomas. The stealth approach lets the tumors hide until it’s too late for the body to defeat them.
MIT engineers have fabricated a new elastic material coated with microscopic, hairlike structures that tilt in response to a magnetic field. Depending on the field’s orientation, the microhairs can tilt to form a path through which fluid can flow; the material can even direct water upward, against gravity. Researchers say structures may be used in windows to wick away moisture.
To help them further the study of cell function, a team of Stanford Univ. bioengineers has designed a suite of protein motors that can be controlled remotely by light. Splicing together DNA from different organisms such as pig, slime mold and oat, which has a light-detecting module, the team created DNA codes for each of their protein motors. When exposed to light, the new protein motors change direction or speed.
Using cryo-electron microscopy technology from FEI Corp., researchers at the NIH-FEI Living Lab for Structural Biology have determined the structural mechanism by which glutamate receptors participate in the transmission of signals between neurons in the brain. The findings suggest a major breakthrough: that the determination of membrane proteins may no longer be limited by size or the need for crystallization.
Several prominent leaders in neuroscience research have announced the formation of a collaboration aimed at making databases about the brain more usable and accessible for neuroscientists. With funding from GE, these institutions, which include the Kavli Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will soon embark on this year-long project.
Neurons communicate with each other through electrical signals that are generated by chemicals, which bind to structures on neurons called neuroreceptors. One neuroreceptor, called 5HT3-R, is involved in a variety of neurological disorders. Scientists in Switzerland have revealed for the first time the 3-D structure of this crucial neuroreceptor.
Researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Kansas Medical Center are making genetic circuits that can perform more complex tasks by swapping protein building blocks. The modular genetic circuits engineered from parts of otherwise unrelated bacterial genomes can be set up to handle multiple chemical inputs simultaneously with a minimum of interference from their neighbors.
In the same week that the U.S. surgeon general issued a lengthy report about the dangers of skin cancer, researchers at Montana State Univ. published a paper breaking new ground on how DNA responds when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The study, made possible by femtosecond lasers used for ultrafast spectroscopy, showed how DNA transfers electrons when excited by UV light.
The shocking news of an Ohio teen who died of a caffeine overdose in May highlighted the potential dangers of the normally well-tolerated and mass-consumed substance. To help prevent serious health problems that can arise from consuming too much caffeine, scientists are reporting progress toward a rapid, at-home test to detect even low levels of the stimulant in most beverages and even breast milk.
Research at New York Univ. is paving the way for a breakthrough that may prevent brain damage in civilians and military troops exposed to poisonous chemicals—particularly those in pesticides and chemical weapons. An article in ChemBioChem outlines the advancement in detoxifying organophosphates, which are compounds commonly used in pesticides and warfare agents.
DNA mutations had been thought to be rare events that occur randomly throughout the genome. However, recent studies have shown that cancer development frequently involves the formation of multiple mutations that arise simultaneously and in close proximity to each other. These groups of clustered mutations are frequently found in regions where chromosomal rearrangements take place.
We have long known that cancer cells monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness to join in an ordered set. Researchers are calling this behavior “mesenchymal,” and they suspect it promotes metastasis.
With the help of conventional inkjet printers, scientists are reporting new understanding about the dynamics of 3-D bioprinting that takes them a step closer to realizing their goal of making working tissues and organs on-demand. Their recent work in testing bioinks filled with hydrogel and different concentrations of mouse fibroblasts shed light on how the inks behave when they’re dispensed through printer nozzles.
The best way to cure most cases of cancer is to surgically remove the tumor. The Achilles heel of this approach, however, is that the surgeon may fail to extract the entire tumor, leading to a local recurrence. With a new technique based on injectable dye and infrared light, researchers in Pennsylvania have established a new strategy to help surgeons see the entire tumor in the patient, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
DNA–protein conjugates can be used in diagnostic techniques, nanotechnology and other disciplines, but controlling the conjugation of these macromolecules can be a challenge. Scientists in Denmark have pioneered an easier method that makes it possible to direct the tagging of proteins with DNA to a particular site on the protein without genetically modifying the protein beforehand.
A powerful new tool that could help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops bioenergy, has been developed by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Their new, unique assay enabled them to analyze nucleotide sugar transporter activities in Arabidopsis, a promising source of plant biomass, and characterize a family of six nucleotide sugar transporters that has never before been described.
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. announced that its human “Organs-on-Chips” technology will be commercialized by a newly formed private company to accelerate development of pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetic and personalized medicine products.
Cancerous tumors protect themselves by tricking the immune system into accepting everything as normal, even while cancer cells are dividing and spreading. One pioneering approach to combat this effect is to use nanoparticles to jumpstart the body's ability to fight tumors. Recent combines these therapeutic nanoparticles with heat to stimulate the immune system.
Virologists and biologists in California have identified a highly abundant, never-before-described virus that could play a major role in obesity, diabetes. The virus, named crAssphage, has about 10 times as many base pairs of DNA as HIV and infects one of the most common types of gut bacteria. This phylum of bacteria is thought to be connected with obesity, diabetes and other gut-related diseases.
A new study has shown that it is possible to predict long-term cancer risk from a chemical exposure by measuring the short-term effects of that same exposure. The findings could make it possible to develop simpler and cheaper tests to screen chemicals for their potential cancer causing risk.
When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.
Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and is the basis of most movement in the body. Adding to the growing fundamental understanding of the machinery of muscle cells, a group of biophysicists in Pennsylvania have published work that describes in minute detail how actin filaments are stabilized at one of their ends to form a basic muscle structure called the sarcomere.