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Research team pursues techniques to improve elusive stem cell therapy

July 1, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Mesenchymal stem cells have become attractive tools for bioengineers, but some scientists haven’t given up on their regenerative potential. A research team at Harvard Univ. recently found that transplanting mesenchymal stem cells along with blood vessel-forming cells naturally found in circulation improves results. This co-transplantation keeps the mesenchymal stem cells alive longer in mice after engraftment, up to weeks from just hours.

Cellular team players

July 1, 2014 9:41 am | News | Comments

Many enzymes work only with a co-trainer, of sorts. Scientists in Germany have shown what this kind of cooperation looks like in detail using a novel methodology applied to the heat shock protein Hsp90, which controls the proper folding of other proteins. Together with a second molecule, the co-chaperone P23, it splits the energy source ATP to yield the energy it needs to do its work.

Researchers show that bacteria can evolve biological timer to survive antibiotics

June 30, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

Using the quantitative approach of physicists, biologists in Israel have developed experimental tools to measure precisely the bacterial response to antibiotics. Their mathematical model of the process has led them to hypothesize that a daily three-hour dose would enable the bacteria to predict delivery of the drug, and go dormant for that period in order to survive.

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Study: Stem cells more widespread than previously believed

June 30, 2014 2:00 pm | News | Comments

New research suggests that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the nature, physiology and location of stem cells. Specifically, the report suggests that embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the only source from which all three germ layers in the human body (nerves, liver or heart and blood vessels) can develop.

New light-sensitive protein enables simpler, more powerful optogenetics

June 30, 2014 9:14 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Optogenetics relies on light-sensitive proteins that can suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells. This technique requires a light source to be implanted in the brain, where it can reach the cells to be controlled. Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have now developed the first light-sensitive molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively, using a light source outside the skull.

Electric eel genome sequence unlocks shocking secrets

June 27, 2014 12:17 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, the genome of the electric eel has been sequenced. This discovery has revealed the secret of how fishes with electric organs have evolved six times in the history of life to produce electricity outside of their bodies. This research has shed light on the genetic blueprint used to evolve these complex, novel organs.

Controlling movement with light

June 27, 2014 9:29 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

For the first time, neuroscientists have shown they can control muscle movement by applying optogenetics, a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical impulses with light, to the spinal cords of animals that are awake and alert. Previously, scientists have used electrical stimulation or pharmacological intervention to control neurons’ activity, but these approaches were not precise enough.

Engineers turn LEGOs into a scientific tool to study plant growth

June 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering Ludovico Cademartiri wanted something modular, scalable and structurally precise to serve as the building blocks for controlled environments to support his study of plants. Microfluidics was too expensive and complex, so he turned to the toy aisle.

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FDA grapples with oversight of fecal transplants

June 26, 2014 12:18 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Imagine a low-cost treatment for a life-threatening infection that could cure up to 90% of patients with minimal side effects, often in a few days.It may sound like a miracle drug, but this cutting-edge treatment is profoundly simple—though somewhat icky: take the stool of healthy patients to cure those with hard-to-treat intestinal infections.

Researchers develop smart gating nanochannels for confined water

June 25, 2014 11:14 am | News | Comments

Confined water exists widely and plays important roles in natural environments, particularly inside biological nanochannels. After several years of work, scientists in China have developed a series of biomimetic nanochannels that can serve as the base for confined transportation of water. The technology suggests a potential use in energy conversion systems.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

New particle-sorting method breaks speed records

June 24, 2014 8:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers compare the processing of biological fluid samples with searching for a needle in a haystack—only in this case, the haystack could be diagnostic samples, and the needle might be tumor cells present in just ppm concentrations. Now, a new way of processing these samples could make such detections possible in real time.

Growing unknown microbes one by one

June 24, 2014 8:26 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Trillions of bacteria live in and on the human body; a few species can make us sick, but many others keep us healthy by boosting digestion and preventing inflammation. Although there's plenty of evidence that these microbes play a collective role in human health, we still know very little about most of the individual bacterial species that make up these communities.

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MAD science: Understanding cellular signaling

June 24, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers in California has zeroed in on the important process of “attenuation,” the way cells guard against potentially harmful overreactions to the external cues that enable them to adapt to prevailing conditions. This bimolecular mutually assured destruction (MAD) mechanism of signaling attenuation broadens our understanding of the range of mechanisms nature has evolved to enact this critical function.

Breathalyzer test may detect deadliest cancer

June 18, 2014 4:04 pm | News | Comments

Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers combined, and the main reason is poor detection methods. A new device developed by a team of Israeli, American and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test is embedded with a "NaNose" nanotech chip to literally "sniff out" cancer tumors.

Technology detects bacterial pathogens in soldiers’ combat wounds

June 17, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A biological detection technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists can detect bacterial pathogens in the wounds of U.S. soldiers that have previously been missed by other technologies. This advance may, in time, allow an improvement in how soldiers' wounds are treated.

With the right rehabilitation, paralyzed rats learn to grip again

June 16, 2014 2:58 pm | News | Comments

After a large stroke, motor skills barely improve, even with rehabilitation. An experiment conducted on rats demonstrates that a course of therapy combining the stimulation of nerve fiber growth with drugs and motor training can be successful. The key, however, is the correct sequence: Paralyzed animals only make an almost complete recovery if the training is delayed until after the growth promoting drugs have been administered.

Sensor in eye could track pressure changes, monitor glaucoma

June 16, 2014 2:21 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Your eye could someday house its own high-tech information center, tracking important changes and letting you know when it’s time to see an eye doctor. Univ. of Washington engineers have designed a low-power sensor that could be placed permanently in a person’s eye to track hard-to-measure changes in eye pressure.

Bionic pancreas may revolutionize diabetes treatment

June 16, 2014 10:39 am | by Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists have made big progress on a "bionic pancreas" to free some people with diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease. A wearable, experimental device passed a real-world test, constantly monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin or a sugar-boosting drug as needed, doctors say.

Trapping the light fantastic

June 16, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

A large team of scientists have developed a “nanobarrel” molecular container that traps and concentrates light onto single molecule. These nanobarrels, which act as tiny test tubes, have been combined with gold nanoparticles so that researchers can detect what is in each one. The invention could be used as a low-cost and reliable diagnostic test.

Antibodies from the desert act as guides to disease cells

June 13, 2014 8:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed nanoparticles that not only bypass the body’s defence system, but also find their way to the diseased cells. The procedure uses fragments from a particular type of antibody that only occurs in camels and llamas. The small particles were even successful under conditions which are very similar to the situation within potential patients’ bodies.

Music under the microscope

June 11, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have converted the frequencies of droplets flowing through thin channels into musical notes. This is more than just a gimmick: The fact that droplets can be controlled so precisely that they become musical instruments means they are also of interest with regard to medical diagnostics applications.

Reports: Advances in microbial forensics needed to respond to outbreaks

June 10, 2014 9:53 am | News | Comments

Much as human DNA can be used as evidence in criminal trials, genetic information about microorganisms can be analyzed to identify pathogens or other biological agents in the event of a suspicious disease outbreak. The tools and methods used to investigate such outbreaks belong to the new field of microbial forensics, but the field faces substantial scientific and technical challenges, says a new report from the National Research Council.

New molecule enables quick drug monitoring

June 9, 2014 10:07 am | Videos | Comments

Scientists in Switzerland have invented a molecule that can easily and quickly show how much drug is in a patient’s system. All that is needed to perform accurate measurements is a conventional digital camera. The result of innovative protein engineering and organic chemistry, the molecule has been shown to work on a range of common drugs for cancer, epilepsy and immunosuppression.

Targeting tumors using silver nanoparticles

June 9, 2014 8:32 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

A new nanoparticle platform developed in California increases the efficiency of drug delivery and allows excess particles to be washed away. A simple etching technique using biocompatible chemicals rapidly disassembles and removes the silver nanoparticles outside living cells. This method leaves only the intact nanoparticles for imaging or quantification, revealing which cells have been targeted and how much each cell internalized.

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