The lungfish is the closest living fish relative of animals with four limbs, called tetrapods. But the lungfish genome is too big to decode with current technology. Scientists have decoded the genome of the next best thing: the coelacanth. Thought to have gone extinct some 70 million years ago, the fish was surprisingly discovered alive in 1938 and could provide insights into the evolution of land animals.
How do nerve cells—which can each be up to three feet long in humans—keep from rupturing or falling apart? Recent research reports that axons, the long, cable-like projections on neurons, are made stronger by a unique modification of the common molecular building block of the cell skeleton. The finding may help guide the search for treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
Not many people can run and read at the same time, because the relative location of the eyes to the text is constantly changing. This forces the eyes to constantly adjust. At Purdue University, an industrial engineering professor has introduced a new innovation called ReadingMate, which adjusts text on a monitor to counteract the bobbing motion of a runner's head so that the text appears still.
Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have succeeded in transforming skin cells directly into oligodendrocyte precursor cells, the cells that wrap nerve cells in the insulating myelin sheaths that help nerve signals propagate. The research was done in mice and rats, but if the approach also works with human cells, it could eventually lead to cell therapies for a variety of diseases of the nervous system.
A new class of tiny, injectable light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is illuminating the deep mysteries of the brain. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices—including LEDs the size of individual neurons—that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of optogenetics and beyond.
A letter that scientist Francis Crick wrote to his son about his Nobel Prize-winning DNA discovery was sold to anonymous buyer at a New York City auction on Wednesday for a record-breaking $5.3 million. The price, which far exceeded the $1 million pre-sale estimate, was a record for a letter sold at auction, eclipsing an Abraham Lincoln letter that sold in April 2008 for $3.4 million including commission.
An advance in micromotor technology akin to the invention of cars that fuel themselves from the pavement or air, rather than gasoline or batteries, is opening the door to broad new medical and industrial uses for these tiny devices, scientists said here today. Their update on development of the motors—so small that thousands would fit inside this "o"—was part of the American Chemical Society national meeting.
Scientists at the Uniersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have "rationally rewired" some of the cell's smallest components to create proteins that can be switched on or off by command. These "protein switches" can be used to interrogate the inner workings of each cell, helping scientists uncover the molecular mechanisms of human health and disease.
Sandia National Laboratories is developing a suite of complementary technologies to help the emerging algae industry detect and quickly recover from algal pond crashes, an obstacle to large-scale algae cultivation for future biofuels. The research draws upon Sandia's longstanding expertise in microfluidics technology, its strong bioscience research program and significant internal investments.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) this week launched a collaborative initiative with university researchers focused on synthetic, or engineered, cells—part of a larger effort to use the smallest units of life to help Sailors and Marines execute their missions. ONR currently has multiple ongoing projects in the field of synthetic biology.
Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity, scientists reported at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Exposition this week. It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new protein that controls the presence of the Vel blood group antigen on our red blood cells. The discovery makes it possible to use simple DNA testing to find blood donors for patients who lack the Vel antigen and need a blood transfusion. This is significant because there is a global shortage of Vel-negative blood
Scientists this week described technology that accelerates microalgae’s ability to produce many different types of renewable oils for fuels, chemicals, foods and personal-care products within days using standard industrial fermentation. On highlight was Solazyme, which has achieved more than 80% oil within each individual cell of microalgae at the commercial scale.
Researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute report that they successfully used a virus vector to restore the expression of a brain protein and improve cognitive functions, in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Because it is impossible to deliver genes directly to the brain without surgery, the researchers injected the virus in the left ventricle of the heart, as this provides a direct route to the brain.
The NeuroBlate Thermal Therapy System is a new device that uses a minimally invasive, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided laser system to coagulate, or heat and kill, brain tumors. The MRI basically "cooks" brain tumors in a controlled fashion to destroy them. The first-in-human study of the system finds that it appears to provide a new, safe and minimally invasive procedure for treating recurrent glioblastoma, a malignant type of brain tumor.
People who are hard of hearing can quickly drift into social isolation. Worse, they can also get into dangerous situations, for example when driving or crossing the road. For many of them, their hearing is so damaged that a standard hearing aid is no longer enough. A new device developed by researchers in Europe is intended to improve patients’ hearing and can be implanted during outpatient surgery.
Although bladder cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the U.S. and the most expensive to treat, the basic method that doctors use to treat it hasn’t changed much in more than 70 years. A research team may soon be changing that dramatically after having developed a prototype telerobotic platform designed to be inserted through natural orifices—in this case the urethra—that can provide surgeons with a much better view, making it easier to remove tumors.
A sensing system developed at the University of Cambridge is being commercialized in the U.K. for use in rapid, low-cost DNA sequencing, which would make the prediction and diagnosis of disease more efficient, and individualized treatment more affordable.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing a medical instrument that will be able to quickly detect a suite of biothreat agents, including anthrax, ricin, botulinum, shiga, and SEB toxin. The device, once developed, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and commercialized, would most likely be used in emergency rooms in the event of a bioterrorism incident.
Porous polymer scaffolds fabricated to support the growth of biological tissue for implantation may hold the potential to greatly accelerate the development of cancer therapeutics. Researchers at Rice University, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Mount Sinai Medical Center reported that 3D scaffolds used to culture Ewing's sarcoma cells were effective at mimicking the environment in which such tumors develop.
Current methods of detecting microRNA (miRNA) can be time consuming and costly: The custom equipment used in such tests costs more than $100,000, and the limited throughput of these systems further hinders progress. Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni are helping to rectify these issues through their fast-growing, Cambridge-headquartered startup, Firefly BioWorks Inc., which provides technology that allows for rapid miRNA detection in a large number of samples using standard laboratory equipment.
Scientists have shown that an enzyme in corn responsible for reading information from DNA can prompt unexpected changes in gene activity—an example of epigenetics that breaks accepted rules of genetic behavior. Though some evidence has suggested that epigenetic changes can bypass DNA’s influence to carry on from one generation to the next, this is the first study to show that this epigenetic heritability can be subject to selective breeding.
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has been awarded a $9.25 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further advance a blood-cleansing technology developed at the institute. The device uses magnetic nanobeads coated with genetically engineered proteins to cleanse pathogens from the bloodstream, and may one day be used in hospitals or the battlefield.
Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist, or patch through a tube. These minimal procedures used to be done just to unclog arteries and correct less common heart rhythm problems. Now some patients are getting such repairs for valves, irregular heartbeats, holes in the heart and other defects—without major surgery.
Scientists have cracked a 35-year-old mystery about the workings of a revolving molecular motor that is now serving as a model for development of a futuristic genre of synthetic nanomotors that pump therapeutic DNA, RNA, or drugs into individual diseased cells. Their report reveals the mechanisms of these nanomotors in a bacteria-killing virus—and a new way to move DNA through cells