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
We live in the post-genomic era, when DNA sequence data is growing exponentially. However, for most of the genes that we identify, we have no idea of their biological functions. They are like words in a foreign language, waiting to be deciphered. A new project called CAFA, for Critical Assessment of Function Annotation, is helping channel the flood of data from genome research to deduce the function of proteins.
New research offers a more comprehensive way of analyzing one cell’s unique behavior, using an array of colors to show patterns that could indicate why a cell will or won’t become cancerous. A University of Washington team has developed a new method for color-coding cells that allows them to illuminate 100 biomarkers, a ten-time increase from the current research standard
Ideally, researchers would like to be able to design and build new catalysts from scratch that can do exactly what they want. However, designing—or even modifying—protein enzymes is a very difficult task. Illinois chemists have overcome the issues with size and complexity by using an artificially synthesized DNA sequence to do a protein’s job, creating opportunities for DNA to find work in more areas of biology, chemistry and medicine than ever before
A compact, self-contained sensor recorded and transmitted brain activity data wirelessly for more than a year in early stage animal tests, according to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to allowing for more natural studies of brain activity in moving subjects, this implantable device represents a potential major step toward cord-free control of advanced prosthetics that move with the power of thought
Three-quarters of the DNA in evolved organisms is wrapped around proteins, forming the basic unit of DNA packaging called nucleosomes, like a thread around a spool. The problem lies in understanding how DNA can then be read by such proteins. Nowphysicists have created a model showing how proteins move along DNA, in a paper just published in EPJ E
Microbes from the human mouth are telling Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists something about periodontitis and more after they cracked the genetic code of bacteria linked to the condition. The research marks the first time scientists have managed to isolate and cultivate this type of bacterium.
This week, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Sony DADC announced a collaboration that will harness Sony DADC's global manufacturing expertise to further advance the Institute's Organs-on-Chips technologies. Human Organs-on-Chips are research tools composed of a clear, flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick, and contain hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human cells
Imitating the structural elements found in most sea sponges, researchers in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material that is extremely flexible yet has a mineral content of almost 90%. They recreated the sponge’s spicules using natural calcium carbonate and integrated a protein of the sponge. The invention is even more flexible than its natural counterpart.
Terahertz (THz) radiation, a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum that occupies the middle ground between microwaves and infrared light, is rapidly finding important uses in medical diagnostics. Now, new research performed on lab-grown human skin suggests that short but powerful bursts of THz radiation may both cause DNA damage and increase the production of proteins that help the body fight cancer.
A research team at the National Institute of Materials Science in Japan has recently developed a gel material which is capable of releasing drugs in response to pressure applied by the patient. Three fingers applying force to the site of the gel produces an effect for up to three days. They built the new drug from two materials already used in pharmaceuticals: a saccharide and a natural component of algae.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have devised a dynamic and reversible way to assemble nanoscale structures and have used it to encrypt a Morse code message. The team started with a template of DNA origami―multiple strands of DNA woven into a tile. They “wrote” their message in the DNA template by attaching biotin-bound DNA strands to specific locations on the tiles that would light up as dots or dashes.
In nature, the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens uses a type of natural nanowire, called pili, to transport electrons to remote iron particles or other microbes. The benefits of these wires could also be harnessed by humans for use in fuel cells or bioelectronics. A new study reveals that a core of aromatic amino acids are required to turn these hair-like appendages into functioning electron-carrying biological wires.
New research shows that a tiny piece of RNA has an essential role in ensuring that embryonic tissue segments form properly. The study, conducted in chicken embryos, determined that this piece of RNA regulates cyclical gene activity that defines the timing of the formation of tissue segments that later become muscle and vertebrae.
An RTI International-developed prototype catheter that can generate live, streaming 3D ultrasound images from inside the heart has recently received a Cardiovascular Innovation Award at the 2013 Cardiovascular Research Technologies Annual Symposium. Called a live volumetric imaging intracardiac catheter, the technology has the potential to improve catheter-based heart procedures.
The future is unclear for a promising heart device aimed at preventing strokes in people at high risk of them because of an irregular heartbeat. Early results from a key study of Boston Scientific Corp.'s Watchman device suggested it is safer than previous testing found, but may not be better than a drug that is used now for preventing strokes, heart-related deaths and blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation over the long term.
Can the length of strands of DNA in patients with heart disease predict their life expectancy? Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, who studied the DNA of more than 3,500 patients with heart disease, say yes it can.
Protein activity is strictly regulated. Incorrect or poor protein regulation can lead to uncontrolled growth and thus cancer or chronic inflammation. Researchers in Switzerland have identified enzymes that can regulate the activity of medically important proteins. Their discovery enables these proteins to be manipulated very selectively, opening up new treatment methods.
A research team in Europe has developed a new line of transgenic "Enviropigs." Enviropigs have genetically modified salivary glands, which help them digest phosphorus in feedstuffs and reduce phosphorus pollution in the environment. After developing the initial line of Enviropigs, researchers found that the line had certain genes that could be unstable. The new line of pigs is called the Cassie line, and it is known for passing genes on more reliably.
Early detection is vital for the effective treatment of cancer. In many cases, tell-tale biomarkers are present in the bloodstream long before outward symptoms become apparent. The development of an inexpensive and rapid point-of-care diagnostic test capable of spotting such early biomarkers of disease could save many lives. A research team in Japan working on developing such a test has now produced their most sensitive microRNA detector yet.
According to findings by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.