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.
Genomic sequencing is supposed to reveal the entire genetic makeup of an organism. The technology can be used to analyze a disease-causing bacterium to determine how much harm it is capable of causing. But new research at Rockefeller Univ. suggests that current sequencing protocols overlook crucial bits of information: isolated pieces of DNA floating outside the bacterial chromosome, the core of a cell’s genetic material.
An international collaboration of researchers have sequenced and analyzed the genome of the common bean to begin to identify genes involved in critical traits such as size, flavor, disease resistance and drought tolerance. They learned that, unlike most other food crops, the common bean was domesticated twice by humans about 8,000 years ago. The results of the study may help guide modern breeding programs.
A dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA: This strange group of materials are actually the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by researchers at NIST. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame.
In the last few years, the benefits of short, intense workouts have been extolled by both researchers and exercise fans as something of a metabolic panacea capable of providing greater overall fitness. Now, a new study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida confirm that there is something molecularly unique about intense exercise: the activation of a single protein.
A new technology developed in Denmark uses the HIV virus as a tool in the fight against hereditary diseases and, in the long term, against HIV infection as well. The technology repairs the genome in a new and safer manner by using the virus as nanoparticles to manage the “cut and paste” approach to modifying the genome.
Researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts will lead an international team of scientists in the development and implementation of a new optogenetic platform that can remotely activate neurons inside a free-moving organism. Using a new class of nanoparticles they propose to selectively turn on non-image forming photoreceptors inside mice and Drosophila, unencumbered by the fiber optic wires currently used in optogenetic technologies.
The final step in the production of a biotech medicine is finishing with the correct sugar structure. This step is essential for the efficacy of the medicine, but it also makes the production process very complex and expensive. Researchers in Belgium have developed a technology that shortens the sugar structures whilst retaining the therapeutic efficiency. This technology could make production of biotech medicines simpler and cheaper.
A new study shows that lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield. The technique could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines.
Plant scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another. The research lead to the development of plants that can accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum.
Genetically modified foods have been around for years, but most Americans have no idea if they are eating them. The Food and Drug Administration says they don't need to be labeled. But in the first major victory for consumers who say they have the right to know whether their food contains GMOs, the state of Vermont has moved forward on its own.
Scripps Research Institute scientists have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters,” or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied.
In a potential step toward new diabetes treatments, scientists used a cloning technique to make insulin-producing cells with the DNA of a diabetic woman. The approach could someday aid treatment of the Type 1 form of the illness, which is usually diagnosed in childhood and accounts for about 5% of diabetes cases in the U.S.
New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative way. A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. have shown in a study that cells can grow normally without a crucial component needed to duplicate their DNA.
Counterfeit or adulterated olive oil has been a persistent presence on the market, in part because the oil is difficult to track. An invisible label, developed by researchers in Switzerland, could perform this task. The tag consists of tiny magnetic DNA particles encapsulated in a silica casing and mixed with the oil. Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy.
Australian researchers are trying a novel way to boost the power of cochlear implants: They used the technology to beam gene therapy into the ears of deaf animals and found the combination improved hearing. The approach reported Wednesday isn't ready for human testing, but it's part of growing research into ways to let users of cochlear implants experience richer, more normal sound.
A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these synthetic DNA “tails” in a cell can be determined in a living cell by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.
You can trace the genetic makeup of most corn grown in the U.S., and in many other places around the world, to Hawaii. The tiny island state 2,500 miles from the nearest continent is so critical to the nation's modern corn-growing business that the industry's leading companies all have farms here, growing new varieties genetically engineered for desirable traits like insect and drought resistance.
A type of single-cell green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a leading subject for photosynthesis research, but few tools are available for characterizing the functions of its genes. A team including Carnegie Institution's Martin Jonikas has developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists by making large-scale genetic characterization of Chlamydomonas mutants possible for the first time.
Synthetic collagen invented at Rice Univ. may help wounds heal by directing the natural clotting of blood. The material, KOD, mimics natural collagen, a fibrous protein that binds cells together into organs and tissues. It could improve upon commercial sponges or therapies based on naturally derived porcine or bovine-derived collagen now used to aid healing during or after surgery.
In a north London hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in a bold attempt to make body parts in the laboratory. It's far from the only laboratory in the world that is growing organs for potential transplant. But the London work was showcased this week hints at the availability of more types of body parts, including what would be the world's first nose made partly from stem cells.
Synthetic genetic circuitry created by researchers at Rice Univ. is helping them see, for the first time, how to regulate cell mechanisms that degrade the misfolded proteins implicated in Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other diseases. The Rice team has designed a sophisticated circuit that signals increases in the degradation of proteins by the cell’s ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS).
Researchers have reported they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. The new method involves adding critical signaling molecules to precursor cells a few days earlier than previous methods specified. This increases the proportion of healthy motor neurons derived from stem cells (from 30 to 70%) and cuts in half the time required to do so.
As the Earth’s human population marches toward 9 billion, the need for hardy new varieties of grain crops has never been greater. It won’t be enough to yield record harvests under perfect conditions; new grains must also be able to handle stress from climate changes. Researchers in Michigan have recently identified a set of genes that could be key to the development of the next generation of super rice.
Adopted a common technique used in biochemistry, called agarose gel electrophoresis, researchers have investigated the damage to DNA that might have been caused by use of an atmospheric pressure plasma jet. This qualitative and quantitative study could ultimately lead to plasma-based tools for cancer therapy or hospital hygiene and other purposes.