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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated in the biggest-ever genomic mapping of schizophrenia, for which scientists had previously uncovered only about a couple of dozen risk-related genes. Since this research began, scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.
Using two thin, tiny gold nanorods 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, researchers from the U.S. and Germany have succeeded in creating an adjustable filter for so-called circularly polarized light. This switch for nano-optics is made from two tiny gold rods that reversibly change their optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added.
Many organisms that hold potential for proteomic analysis do not yet have a completely sequenced genome because the costs are prohibitive. Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, is one such species. Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory have found a work-around. Instead of relying on DNA, they used mRNA sequences to more efficiently create a reference database that can be used for proteomic analysis of Xenopus.
Researchers in Sweden have headed a study that provides new knowledge about the EphA2 receptor, which is significant in several forms of cancer. The researchers employed the method of DNA origami, in which a DNA molecule is shaped into a nanostructure, and used these structures to test theories about cell signalling.
Researchers have already used molecular rotors as viscosity sensor probes in live cells, but a recent study in Singapore is the first to report on the use of fluorescent molecular rotors to study critical protein interactions.
Researchers have developed new methods to trace the life history of individual cells back to their origins in the fertilized egg. By looking at the copy of the human genome present in healthy cells, and by looking at the numbers and types of mutations in a cell's DNA, biologists in the U.K. have been able to build a picture of each cell's development from the early embryo on its journey to become part of an adult organ.
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.
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