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Molecular beacons shine light on how cells "crawl"

October 24, 2014 12:40 pm | by Carol Clark, EScience Commons | News | Comments

Adherent cells, the kind that form the architecture of all multicellular organisms, are engineered with precise forces that allow them to move around and stick to things. When these cells are put into a petri dish with a variety of substrates they can sense the differences in the surfaces and they will “crawl” toward the stiffest one. Chemists have devised a method using DNA-based tension probes to measure and map these phenomena.

Researchers break the nano barrier to engineer the first protein microfiber

October 23, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-...

Precise and programmable biological circuits

October 23, 2014 9:37 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bio-engineers are working on the development of biological computers: biological material that...

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of...

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Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

“Programmable” antibiotic uses enzyme to attack drug-resistant microbes

October 6, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Microbes populating the human body have good, bad and mostly mysterious implications for our health. But when something goes wrong, we use the brute force of traditional antibiotics, which wipe out everything at once. Researchers at Rockefeller Univ. have developed a more subtle approach that uses the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9 to target a particular sequence of DNA, cutting that up but leaving more innocent microbes alone.

Scientists develop barcoding tools for stem cells

October 6, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

A 7-year-project to develop a barcoding and tracking system for tissue stem cells has revealed previously unrecognized features of normal blood production: New data from Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists at Boston Children's Hospital suggests, surprisingly, that the billions of blood cells that we produce each day are made not by blood stem cells, but rather their less pluripotent descendants, called progenitor cells.

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NIH awards UC Berkeley $7.2 million to advance brain initiative

October 2, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The National Institutes of Health this week announced its first research grants through President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, including three awards to the Univ. of California, Berkeley, totaling nearly $7.2 million over three years. The projects are among 58 funded in this initial wave of NIH grants, involving 100 researchers and a total of $46 million in fiscal year 2014 dollars alone.

A molecule in an optical whispering gallery

September 23, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

Using an optical microstructure and gold nanoparticles, scientists have amplified the interaction of light with DNA to the extent that they can now track interactions between individual DNA molecule segments. In doing so, they have approached the limits of what is physically possible. This optical biosensor for single unlabelled molecules could also be a breakthrough in the development of biochips:

Battling superbugs

September 23, 2014 9:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Each year, new strains of bacteria emerge that resist even the most powerful antibiotics, but scientists have discovered very few new classes of antibiotics in the past decade. Engineers have now turned a powerful new weapon on these superbugs. Using a gene-editing system that can disable any target gene, they have shown that they can selectively kill bacteria carrying harmful genes that confer antibiotic resistance or cause disease.

Bioengineers develop a toolkit for designing better synthetic molecules

September 23, 2014 9:10 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Synthetic molecules hold great potential for revealing key processes that occur in cells, but the trial-and-error approach to their design has limited their effectiveness. Christina Smolke at Stanford Univ. has introduced a new computer model that could provide better blueprints for building synthetic genetic tools.

Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has designed new materials that could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions.

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Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

September 22, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch, which involves the enzyme telomerase, points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.

Program predicts placement of chemical tags that control gene activity

September 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Biochemists in California have developed a program that predicts the placement of chemical marks that control the activity of genes based on sequences of DNA. By comparing sequences with and without epigenomic modification, the researchers identified DNA patterns associated with the changes. They call this novel analysis pipeline Epigram and have made both the program and the DNA motifs they identified openly available to other scientists.

Taking a Big Bite Out of Malaria

September 15, 2014 9:49 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Malaria threatens more than 40% of the world’s population and kills up to 1.2 million people worldwide each year. Many of these deaths happen in Sub-Saharan Africa in children under the age of five and pregnant woman. The estimates for clinical infection is somewhere between 300 to 500 million people each year, worldwide.

Single cell smashes and rebuilds its own genome

September 9, 2014 10:59 am | by Morgan Kelly, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Life can be so intricate and novel that even a single cell can pack a few surprises, according to a study led by Princeton Univ. researchers. The pond-dwelling, single-celled organism Oxytricha trifallax has the remarkable ability to break its own DNA into nearly a quarter-million pieces and rapidly reassemble those pieces when it's time to mate. The organism internally stores its genome as thousands of scrambled, encrypted gene pieces.

Physicists explore biomimetic clocks

September 8, 2014 1:37 pm | News | Comments

An international team has engineered and studied “active vesicles." These purely synthetic, molecularly thin sacs are capable of transforming energy, injected at the microscopic level, into organized, self-sustained motion.The ability to create spontaneous motion and stable oscillations is a hallmark of living systems and reproducing and understanding this behavior remains a significant challenge for researchers.

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Platelet-like particles augment natural blood clotting for treating trauma

September 8, 2014 8:23 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new class of synthetic platelet-like particles could augment natural blood clotting for the emergency treatment of traumatic injuries. The clotting particles, which are based on soft and deformable hydrogel materials, are triggered by the same factor that initiates the body’s own clotting processes.

Shining light on brain circuits to study learning, memory

September 8, 2014 8:04 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley neuroscientists plan to use light to tweak the transmission of signals in the brain to learn more about how the mouse brain and presumably the human brain process information. Last month, the promising optogenetics research project was awarded one of 36 new $300,000, two-year grants from the National Science Foundation in support of the BRAIN Initiative.

Researchers turn to plants to help treat hemophilia

September 4, 2014 1:02 pm | by April Frawley Birdwell, Univ. of Florida | News | Comments

Up to 30% of people with the most common form of hemophilia develop antibodies that attack lifesaving protein injections, making it difficult to prevent or treat excessive bleeding. Now researchers have developed a way to thwart production of these antibodies by using plant cells to teach the immune system to tolerate rather than attack the clotting factors.

Scientists make diseased cells synthesize their own drug

September 3, 2014 8:34 am | News | Comments

In a new study that could ultimately lead to many new medicines, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have adapted a chemical approach to turn diseased cells into unique manufacturing sites for molecules that can treat a form of muscular dystrophy.

Water “thermostat” could help engineer drought-resistant crops

August 28, 2014 8:58 am | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have identified a gene that could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops. The gene, called OSCA1, encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plants that senses changes in water availability and adjusts the plant’s water conservation machinery accordingly. The effect is similar to a thermostat.

Living organ grown from lab-created cells

August 25, 2014 2:25 pm | Videos | Comments

Laboratory-grown replacement organs have moved a step closer with the completion of a new study. Scientists have grown a fully functional organ from transplanted laboratory-created cells in a living animal for the first time. They have created a thymus, an organ next to the heart that produces immune cells known as T cells that are vital for guarding against disease.

Efficient Bioengineering

August 22, 2014 2:50 pm | Award Winners

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering is a powerful new method for rapidly transforming crops into biological factories. The technology, a suite of high-precision genetic tools and procedures, makes it possible to change plant traits in a highly selective, tissue-specific fashion.

Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

New gene editing method may help correct muscular dystrophy

August 15, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Texas have successfully used a new gene editing method to correct a mutation that leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in a mouse model of the condition. The technique is called CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing, and can precisely remove a mutation in DNA, allowing the body’s DNA repair mechanisms to replace it with a normal copy of the gene.

Scientists create remote-controlled nanoscale protein motors

August 6, 2014 9:58 am | by Shara Tonn, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

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.

New tools advance bio-logic

August 4, 2014 8:21 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Biologists describe mechanism promoting multiple DNA mutations

July 30, 2014 4:49 pm | by Gart Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

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.

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